Religion

Sunday Sermon

Today’s sermon, like any good sermon, features the Word of God. To follow along, visit Bible Gateway or The Good Book itself (80% of households have one, so chances are you do and, hell, even I do.)

Some people interpret The Bible literally; others take it with a grain of salt. Most view it through the lens of their own personalities, upbringing, and the social norms of their time-period/society. But according to Jesus:

“It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17)

That said; let’s examine the parts of The Word that you normally don’t hear in church.


Let’s begin by opening our books to Exodus, where God has a special message for us about today:   

Anyone doing work on Sunday should be put to death
Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2)

I’m glad this one gets swept under the rug cuz I’m doing laundry today. Whew!

And while we’re on the topic of God’s favorite day of the week, better perform a cursory check before stepping into your Sunday best.

Those with damaged…er…goods can’t go to church.
No one whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may be admitted into the community of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:1)

Better guard those grapes!

And while we’re on the subject of penis protocol:

If a man lies in sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period, both of them shall be cut off from their people, because they have laid bare the flowing fountain of her blood. (Leviticus 20:18)

God gives new meaning to the Scarlet Letter. Ahem.

The Bible offers God-inspired solutions to many evils that still plague us today. For example,

Rapists must purchase and marry their victims
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. Deuteronomy 22:28-29

Wow…just what I would want, to marry that guy in the dark alley with the knife.

Then there’s God’s take on the

Proper punishment for adultery
If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

And you thought all you could ask for was the house.

There’s also a plethora of parenting advice to be had in The Bible. Let’s have a look-see.

Disobedient children should be stoned to death
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives. Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-19, 21)

If I have children, I’ll be keeping this verse in my pocket to remind them how lucky they are that I merely open a can of whoop-ass when God says I can have them stoned.

The merits of striking your children
Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with a rod he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world. (Proverbs 23:13-14)

I guess this settles the spanking debate.

Proper business etiquette for selling your children as slaves
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed.  He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her.  If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money. (Exodus 21:7-11)

Then there are those verses that are just my personal favorites. Such as:

Psychics should be put to death.
A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27)

You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:18)

This is bad news for Sylvia Browne. Not that I care.

This one speaks for itself.

A man with long hair is a disgrace.
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him? (1 Corinthians 11:14)

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Confession: including this verse was actually a cheap shot on my part because I don’t believe Jesus looked anything like this. When was the last time you saw a white guy born and raised in the Middle East? For more information on the subject (and some very interesting reading) check out this article.

Last, but not least, God wages a pre-emptive strike on Skepchicks, only to be foiled by Rebecca:

Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing and by continuing to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)


Okay, so these verses are funny at best and offensive at worst. I didn’t give fair representation to the many positive Biblical passages because those are the ones that get all the press – it’s these that truly don’t get fair representation. But the purpose of this post isn’t to rabble-rouse or put theists on the defense. There is a valid point to be considered – by theists and atheists alike.   

The Bible is full of beautiful stories and terrible stories. It represents both a loving God and an unthinkably cruel God. It’s plagued with contradictions. The God that Christians recognize today looks and acts as our society finds acceptable. But he’s not the same God worshipped in the Old Testament or even in the New Testament. The face of God changes as people and cultures change – it is molded and remolded to fit various personalities, opinions, and social norms. But The Bible is not without merit. It is an interesting literary artifact, through which we can gain insight into the minds of men over many years and many cultures. There are many beautiful stories of love, redemption, and forgiveness – fables that convey the goodness of the human spirit. There are also many passages with claims that are unthinkable in our current society. The Bible is a collection of myths written by man. And man is good, man is bad, but most of all man is fallible. The Bible is an expression of that. To interpret The Bible literally, a person can’t honestly focus on the warm and fuzzy God in some passages and ignore the brutal, unthinkable God in others. So to truly embrace The Bible is to accept that within its pages is good, bad, and much that is influenced by the culture and time-period in which it was written. If you believe that The Bible is the Word of God and that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then you must believe that his Word is timeless – not bound by human cultures and social norms. You must accept The Bible in its entirety. Or, you can accept The Bible for what it truly is – a fascinating and breathtakingly flawed insight into the minds of our Christian and Jewish ancestors.

But what do I know…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; on your own intelligence rely not. (Proverbs 3:5)

References:

Bible Gateway
Penn & Teller – Bullshit “The Bible: Fact or Fiction”
Michael Shermer debate: Does God Exist?
The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.
The Evil Bible

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46 Comments

  1. the amazing thing to me is that if you know your Bible—and growing up in Texas, I do–and you confront people spouting selective hateful verses, they just get angry.

    For example, the Leviticus verses about homosexuality also set wearing clothes of mixed fabrics, or touching the skin of a pig, as verboten as well. Football players in polyester blend fabrics–DOOMED!!

    Usually, it ends up with them giving me the the "devil can quote scripture" line, and stomping off.

    Great Sermon! Amen Sister!

  2. Actually, I think where you were probably mistaken was in assuming that fundies are rational. Some of them are definitely smart enough to figure it out, they just don't want to.

  3. I totally agree, Exarch. Many of the fundies are just simple-minded – never having researched anything beyond the religion into which they were born (and many of them don't even know that very well!). When I wrote that, I was actually thinking of the "scientists" like Duane Gish & Michael Behe, who obviously have the brain to figure it out, but choose not to. :)

  4. Nice sermon. A Christian myself, I agree that the Bible is full of contradictions and laws utterly out of place in our current society. To flatly deny that, or attempt to rationalize them, is absurd and sad.

    The Bible is an utterly human document. It may well have been inspired by God Himself, but it has been interpreted, transcribed and rationalized by countless generations of human beings.

  5. One question that's always frustrated me is why in the heck Jesus didn't write anything for the Bible while he was on earth. You would think that he would take the opportunity to write the Word of God with precision, considering he was starting a new church (Christianity), and considering how the Word was so obviously butchered in the Old Testament. Instead, he leaves it up to his disciples, it gets passed down for a few hundred years, and some of the writings are finally bound into a book. This is akin to us trying to write Rebecca's blog (as she would have it written), passing it down for a few hundred years, and finally having it published. I can see Rebecca rolling over in her grave going…no no no! If God were omniscient, he would know the confusion this would cause. Couldn't he have given Jesus a nudge to write down a few words of wisdom for us that couldn't be disputed?

  6. It's all good, except that part where you assume that the Sabbath day is on Sunday.

    Exodus 20:8-11, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."

    Look at any calendar. The week begins on Sunday, and ends on Saturday. If God started work on the first day of the week, Sunday, and rested on the 7th day of the week, Saturday, then that make Saturday the sabbath.

    Everyone who works on Saturday, or lets someone else work on a Saturday in his/her own home is going to hell. The Bible says so!

  7. Good point, David! I hadn't even thought of it, but you're right – the Bible says that Saturday is the 7th day, the Sabbath. I think that the 7th day adventists are the only Christians that acknowledge this, and they're perceived as cultishly unorthodox. And yet, they are the ones interpreting the Bible as it's written. Those crazy Christians… :)

  8. JohnF – yep, when I looked up 7th Day Adventists (on wikipedia), their hypothesis as to why Christians ever changed the Sabbath to Sunday was that perhaps they were trying to differentiate from Jews, who recognized the original Sabbath (Saturday). They, evidently, are the only Christians who didn't switch.

  9. My own hypothesis has always been that the Catholics switched in order to cause a financial burden on the Jews. Being the minority, they wouldn't be able to work on Sunday as the majority celebrated it as a holy day, but they also wouldn't be able to work on a Saturday, as it was the Sabbath.

    It's entirely possible that that's the reason behind our 5 day work week today. Hey! Thanks, Catholics.

  10. "If you believe that The Bible is the Word of God and that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then you must believe that his Word is timeless – not bound by human cultures and social norms."

    That's actually not right! If I may, I’d like to shed some light on the subject.

    From the very beginning, this was not the way of the Church. It’s true that a some protestants consider the Bible the literal word of God. But protestants are a dissident group that began existing circa 1500, but this particular line of interpretation became popular on the US after the 1800's.

    The Truths of Faith are timeless. But the Bible is not the literal word of God. The Universal Church considers such OT writings to be inspired by God, but written by flawed humans, bound by their time and social norms. Even by restrictions of language, culture, and knowledge.

    There are earlier examples of this, but I'd like to mention St. Augustine, which was very aware of this on the 300's. Because of this limitation, we should take great care in interpreting scripture.

    For example, the episode of Noah speaks of "all the world", but it was quite clear to people on the 300's that it was probably just a metaphor to a local flood, not literally a flood that would cover the entire world.

    As the picture of our Lord kindly displays, those laws are from the OT and have little to do with the New Advent. Divorce and polygamy were A-OK back then, but they are not now. And they were not by 33 A.D. There's nothing new and shocking about this.

    "And what about St. Paul? Uh? Uh? Uh? Uh?"

    St. Paul was a Saint, but he was also a man living in the first century. Unlike Protestants, who decided out of the blue to rely solely on the Bible (Sole Scriptura was a novelty of the 1500's), the Church is based on three foundations: Scripture, Magisterium, and Apostolic Tradition. The Magisterium (the teachings of the Church) teaches (duh) quite clearly that man and woman are equal. Of course, during the middle ages, there were an emphasis on Men protecting the family and providing, and for woman to teach and take care of the children, but that was something based on the factually reality of that time. Nowadays, there’s no problem with women working and men staying at home. In fact, the greatest Saint is a woman.

    Of course anyone can pick and choose old writings that would be embarrassing for modern sensitivities.

    But Darwin saying nasty (and scientifically absurd) things about black people doesn't make the theory of evolution wrong. Maybe he was just limited by his time and culture.

  11. Thanks, David. The answer to your questions lie here:

    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9312chap.as

    "Since Jesus was the Son of Man, he had authority to change the sabbath if he wished. When his disciples were chastised for plucking grain on the sabbath (Mark 2:23-28), Christ pointed to an example from the life of David to justify the conclusion, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the sabbath" (v. 27-28)."

    and here:
    http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_thisrock

    "The other commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural law, obligatory at all times and unalterable. Hence, after the abrogation of the Law of Moses, all the Commandments contained in the two tables are observed by Christians, not indeed because their observance is commanded by Moses, but because they are in conformity with nature which dictates obedience to them.

    This Commandment about the observance of the sabbath, on the other hand, considered as to the time appointed for its fulfillment, is not fixed and unalterable, but susceptible of change and belongs not to the moral, but the ceremonial law. Neither is it a principle of the natural law; we are not instructed by nature to give external worship to God on that day, rather than on any other. And in fact the sabbath was kept holy only from the time of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh."

  12. Darwin is not omniscient, omnipotent, and/or omnibenevolent. And his theories are tested by observable evidence/ability to use his theories to predict natural phenomena, not faith.

    Delance, the problem with your logic is that now basically anything can be written in the Bible and it doesn't matter. And anything IS written in the Bible, and worse. It's just a fancy way of rationalizing/excusing it.

    I ask again – if God were omniscient, he would know the confusion these quotes in the OT caused and the further confusion that the disciples would cause with the NT. Couldn’t he have given Jesus a nudge to write down a few words of wisdom for us that couldn’t be disputed while he was here on earth?

  13. Why in the heck would an omnipotent God (a God that can do anything) give us only a book with everything from the horrible to the acceptable to confuse the heck out of us? He's either not omnipotent or missing a few marbles. Especially when he had the chance (as if an omnipotent God would need it) to be in human form, with hands capable of writing, here on earth. It's like "intelligent design" – sounds good, but just doesn't add up.

  14. Sraiche,

    The people who wrote the Bible are not omniscient, omnipotent, and/or omnibenevolent. They didn’t write scientific theories either, and not only they couldn’t, because the concept didn’t exist, but it was not the purpose.

    That's not a rationalization; it's a statement of fact. The "literal Bible" is a protestant thing, and has nothing to do with the Church.

    You make some very good questions. But those are not directed about the existence of God, but towards attributes like Omnibenevolence. But just because we don’t perceive something as good, doesn’t mean it isn’t. First, there’s the problem of incomplete information. God is Omniscient, and we are not. Second, to do that we must assume that, for God to be good, it must do as we think is good. But that’s just an anthropomorphization.

    Should we really be capable of understanding God? We can barely make sense of the universe. We suffer from limited perception. Even Richard Dawkins fears that the universe might be to "queer" to understand. Why would we assume that human comprehension of the mind of the Almighty is necessary?

    But to answer your question: the Bible is not a Book God decided to write on 6500 B.C. and than sent his Son to revise. The Bible is a collection of very different texts, written in different times, by different people, with different styles, for different purposes. The selection was done by the Church in the late antiquity. It was inspired by God, not dictated by him. Understanding and interpreting such a vast collection of sacred texts is not an easy task and can quickly lead to error. Modern Creationism is one such error.

    What I can tell you is that all those questions have been studied and debated for centuries by very gifted individuals all over the world. Let’s not jump to conclusions based on pop Christianity sound bytes.

  15. Sounds like you're jumping to the conclusion that my only knowledge of Christianity comes from "pop Christianity sound-bytes". Or just trying an ad hominem attack on my knowledge base. Hm.

    Anyway, once again the logical fallacy is that when you say something like "we suffer from limited perception" or "are we capable of understanding God", you are just admitting that it doesn't make sense, and saying it's true anyway because we are incapable of understanding it. Just a different version of the "God works in mysterious ways" catchall that gives God credit for all the good and doesn't blame him for any of the bad. If the Christian God wants me to make him #1 in my life, the least he could do either is either (A) make available information that makes some sort of sense or at least doesn't require extensive creative defense to justify, or (B) make me stupid enough not to care.

    As it is, I've done extensive research of not only Christianity, but other religions as well. Religions are, by definition, specific to culture and time period. Christianity is not the first religion that people believed. It's not the first religion people died for. It's merely the religion that happens to be popular in our culture right now. To think that it just happens to be the "one true religion" , and that all the other religions that people ever practiced or practice now are wrong, is to believe something extremely unlikely. Having studied the substance of religions and their purpose, my conclusion is – God didn't create man, man created God (Michael Shermer quote).

  16. (Gee, this ended up being a little big)

    sraiche,

    I apologize if my previous remarks offended you, that was certainly not my intent.

    I did not say that something is true because we can't understand it. That would make no sense, wouldn't you agree? Lack of understanding of something is not evidence either for or against it.

    I was speaking of two different things. First, it's illogical to assume that for something to be true, we must understand it first. It’s usually the other way around, we find out something, than we try to understand it. Second, it’d be a fallacy to say that if we don't understand God, than God doesn't exist. It's an argumentum ad ignorantiam of sorts – if we don't/can't understand something, it doesn’t exist.

    And it's perfectly logical to assume that we can't fully understand God. Man is imperfect and limited. If we are not Omniscient or Omnibenevolent, how could we really understand God? This fact is not an argument against the existence of God. But I didn't stop there, and actually answered your question about the Bible. I hope it was satisfactory.

    This isn't a ceap way to justify evil in the world. Evil exist in the world. The world is not supposed to be perfect or devoid of evil.

    There's no "creative defense" to justify anything. That's getting it the other way around. When, for example, someone says the Catholic Church “coped out” of creationism by admitting evolution, it's a glaring case of ignoring the historical record. As you probably know, Creationism was never Church doctrine. The doctrine has been the same since St. Augustine in the 3rd century. Was he doing some creative defense for a theory that would show up 1500 years later? Unlikely.

    I think it's more correct to study the canonical texts with the paradigm of the institution that selected and interpreted them. If someone interprets literally something written in the mythopoetic language of ancient east, it’s their fault it doesn't make sense. I do think it makes sense, and it’s a reliable source of understanding God. It’s also, as you mentioned, an important literally source for human history.

    Christianity is not very specific to any culture or time period. It has existed since late antiquity, the middle ages, renascence, modern age, industrial age, and is as strong as ever. It's not eurocentric, either, there are african and middle-eastern rites that developed in parallel with the Church in Europe. It’s the first truly universal institution that I’m aware of. Anyone, from anyplace, any background, regardless of race, gender of social status can join. When there was the conclave last year, I spoke with a Korean catholic that was on NY and went to a spanish mass. I like that I can go to anywhere in the World and meet someone with a totally different cultural background that shares my faith.

    Why would be all religions but one being wrong less likely than all religions being wrong? And why probability theory would even be useful in determining religious truth? I don’t think there’s any problem with a question having one true answer. That’s how questions usually work, there’s one right answer, and lots of wrong ones. There’s infinite numbers, yet still 2+2=4. Christianity doesn’t seem very popular to me nowdays, but I must agree popularity is also not a very useful tool in this case.

    I too studied this subject to great length, and my conclusion led me to where I’m now. Now, you said you studied religion and their purpose. Now, I ask you, what is the purpose of the Catholic Chuch;

  17. The purpose of the Catholic Church? the Roman Catholic Church? The original purpose was to extend the life of the Roman empire. If you argue that I strongly suggest you go back to history class.

    As for Christianity not being a religion of the current times… well, humanity has existed in an organized state for, conservatively, 30,000 years. In that time Christianity has been a widespread religion for less than 2,000. Compare that to Buddhism – with a history of at least 6,000 years and very probably approaching 10,000. Compare it to the Egyptian religion that lasted nearly 3,500 years and left the most enduring monuments of any religion on earth. Chrisitianity, especially in it's current form, is a very contemporary religion – and given it's propensity toward splitting into sects is not likely to exist in a recognizable form in another 2,000.

    "Why would be all religions but one being wrong less likely than all religions being wrong?"

    Well, simply put, the fact that no other religion, some of which existed for far longer than Christianity has, are assumed to have been wrong would lead one to the conclusion that Christiainity is likely wrong as well. Especially given that the only reason that can be offered for any other religion being wrong as compared to Christianity boils down to "Because I said so."

    As for probability theory being a viable tool for determining "religious truth" – it isn't – but then again nothing else is either. Religion, by definition, requires faith which precludes the idea of any real "religious truth". There can be what you percieve to be truth for you but you cannot in any way prove that it is true for everyone else. Truth, by definition, means it is valid at all times for all people – for example, in the context of the earth, it is true that gravity will pull you towards the center of the earth at a measurable rate that will be sufficient to keep you from spontaneously leaving the surface planet. You cannot say anything even remotely as certain for all people regarding any religion. You can state that in your view you are certain of a particular religious belief but you cannot, if you are intellectually honest with yourself, state that it is a universal truth based on any evidecne beyond your own faith.

  18. Was that an ad hominem attack on my knowledge base? Hm. Obviously, I don't think the whole theory about Constantine inventing the Catholic Church is very credible historically, if that was what you meant (I’m not sure what you meant). He was a pagan who was baptized on his death bed and signed the Edict of Milan making the Roman Empire neutral on religion, like most modern states. That ended persecution of Christians. Lots of States have persecuted Christians, some still do, and will continue to. Well, the declared purpose of the Catholic Church is to save souls, that's the bit of trivia I was aiming at.

    The definition of truth is a big Epistemology problem. But I disagree slightly with your definition on this way: Coppernicus knew the Sun didn't orbit the Earth, and he couldn't really prove it. It was truth all along, even before the first man was ever born. But you touched on an interesting subject.

    Of course I think the Catholic faith is truth, and most certainly not because “I think so”. Religious truth isn't the same as mathematical truth. I can’t run around with a theorem telling people to convert. If Gödel's ontological proof was an indisputable mathematical fact, would it that convert people? Evidence exists, but it’s not the kind of thing you can impose on others.

    I think you're conservative about the age of men, I've read some time ago about a primitive city that could be as much as 200.000 years old. And those cavemen paintings, how old are those? Age is certainly not a defining factor. It's remarkable that the Catholic Church is the oldest institution in existence. About the Egyptians, what do those monuments express? Hope of an afterlife, a quasi-universal religious trait? So, if Catholic Church is right, those Egyptians were not completely wrong. They got some things right, too.

    I think splitting into sects is one of the universal human traits. The closest people have in common, the more likely they are to get stuck by details they disagree with. People believe in weird things. I know an atheist who claims the Big Bang is a religious conspiracy to undermine science.

    I am intellectually honest, thank you very much. And what you mentioned can be said about pretty much every single view on the subject. Mine, yours, the Pope’s.

    On the other hand, I believe it's a universal truth, in the sense that the God exists regardless of individual belief, even if, like Coppernicus, I can’t prove it. The difference is that this subject doesn’t accept the same kind of investigation and proof of astronomy.

  19. I gave the age of civilization a very conservative estimate as evidence for large cities (and thus large orgnaized civilization of the kind that come up with orgnaized religions) older than 30,000 years is fairly new and as yet not completely agreed upon. Cave painting certainly date back much farther than that and indeed farther than homo-sapiens… not all cave paintings have been the province of "man" as we know him.

    Buddhism as an organized religion far predates Christiainity and is alive and well today – so calling the Catholic church the oldest instutuion in existence isn't quite right. While Buddhism doesn't have a centralized system like the Catholic church does it most certainly does have an organization to it.

    Constantines' decree did not end the persecution of Christians – it ended the official state persecution but the persecution by the still majority groups of Pagans and Jews continued for quite some time. In 380AD: Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity as the sole religion of the Roman Empire. This is the real begining of what we now know as the Roman Catholic Church – or simply Catholics. At this point in time the Empire was in decline due to internal strife and fighting between Chrisitians, Jews and Pagans. Theodosius' proclamation does not put an immediate end to that but makes clear who the victors in that fight would be and aligns the considerable power of the Roman Empires military to ensure it.

    Oh, and you're right – the go back to history class comment was a low blow – my apologies.

  20. Delance,

    Those are pretty specious arguements for the establishment of Sunday as the Sabbath.

    You replied:

    “Since Jesus was the Son of Man, he had authority to change the sabbath if he wished."

    Fair enough. I'll grant that Jesus had the power to do that. Show me something which says he did change it, and to what day was it changed?

    My interpretation of the passage you quoted was that Jesus said it was OK to do things like harvest grain on the Sabbath in order to feed the hungry. Using it to justify changing the day on which the Sabbath is celebrated is a bit of a stretch.

    Your other arguement was much the same — the arguement was basically that the original Sabbath day was only convention. and conventions can be changed. You fail to show fair reason why the convention should be changed.

  21. David,

    Those are not my arguments. I'm lazy, so I copy-pasted them. The first one is from Jimmy Akin. You can reach him at [email protected], and his site is http://jimmyakin.typepad.com. If you ask him that, what I strongly encourage you to, since he’s very open to this kind of inquiry, he might make a happy post day out of it. Be sure to include the word "specious". The second one is from the catechism of the Council of Trent, and contacting the author will be far trickier. Anyway, I don't really know the answer that you seek, I always assumed it’s for the same reason we can eat pepperoni pizzas and don’t have to circumcise babies.

  22. sraiche,

    I just saw that link to "Santa, Jesus, and the Symbolism of Racial Supremacy".

    "But let's be clear: the white iconography of Jesus that predominates in this culture makes absolutely no sense, except as an artifact of a white supremacist worldview. "

    This is Patron Saint of my country, Our Lady of Aparicida, a Black statue of the Virgin Mary.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Aparecid

    The Church has many other such examples, some of them very antique, like the Virgin of Montserrat and the Black Madonna of Częstochowa.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_of_Montserrat http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black Madonna of Częstochowa

    Isn't "White supremacist" a bit out there, borderlining Godwin's law?

    The dominant image used today is based on the art paintings of the Renaissance, which, for stylish reasons, used contemporary look for ancient portraits. That’s why Jesus and Mary not only looked European, but also were frequently dressed in European Renaissance era clothes. For the same reasons, Roman Soldiers didn’t the Roman Soldier uniform, but a Renaissance era military uniform. This style was not exclusive to sacred art, and was also applied to other themes, including Greek and Roman mythology, and even historical figures. Everyone looked European and used Renaissance era clothes. In the Sistine Chapel, God and Adam are white. What’s more reasonable to assume is the reason? A hidden white supremacist conspiracy or the fact that the painter, Michelangelo, was using his own frame of reference? Some Japanese Catholics uses images of Mary and Jesus as Japanese for the very same reason. They are not going for photographic realism.

    Santa is white because it’s from an European Legend. Several such legendary figures exist around the world. Or perhaps am I to assume that the Saci Pererê artistic descriptions are a form of afro-centrism, amputee conspiracy funded by the smoking industry?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saci (Brazilian folklore)

    (I hope you enjoy the linnks, at least)

    G'nite.

  23. Actually, cave art is not that old. Most of it comes from between 15,000 and about 35,000 years ago. Some estimates put the few oldest examples at about 40,000, but the high-point of cave painting was from about 35,00 onwards. That certainly doesn't pre-date Homo sapiens. In fact, the emergence of symbolic thought (as manifested in things like cave art and decorative body ornaments) are suggested as one of the criteria that set Hs. apart from its predecessors.

    I'd be interested to know where you got your figures from — you know, being skeptical and all — (mine came from recollections of Anthropology classes at university confirmed by a quick look in Stringer & Andrews's 2005 book on human origins and the 2004 _Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution_, just to make sure I wasn't misremembering).

  24. JohnF,

    Well, check this out for istance:

    http://www.accessexcellence.org/WN/SU/caveart.htm

    "These findings come at a time of considerable debate among paleontologists studying the origins of the human race. There is an abundance of evidence that stone tools were used in the Lower Paleolithic Era – 2.5 million to 100,000 years ago. By the Middle Paleolithic Era, between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago, humans had become quite good at chipping stone for tools and weapons. Here the consensus ends. Some hypothesize that modern behavior, characterized by language and art appeared relatively recently, less than 50,000 years ago, in Europe. The less popular hypothesis has been that modern behavior goes back quite a bit further, coinciding with the evolution of the modern human anatomy, perhaps as long ago as 200,000 years. The current discoveries may lend support to the second hypothesis and cause 'late origins' proponents to reconsider."

    I actually would think that mankind being 10.000 years old would be far more conforming, or at least easier to study. But we must follow the evidence.

  25. But where in that text does it give a date for cave-art? All of the 'famous' caves (Lascaux, Altamira, etc) don't even exceed 35,000 years, nevermind approach 200,000.

    The article seems to be conflating (deliberately or not) language and art. Things that are linked because of the symbolism required to enable them, but not necessarily tied. As for the "human anatomy" part, I'm not sure how that's even being attempted to be tied to the ability to cave-paint. Language, yes. I did my final year dissertation at university on the pre-adaptations to language as shown in the fossil record and comparative evidence from primates, so I can see the point they're making about anatomy and language. But art? Hands developed for holding paint-brushes, maybe?!?

    Well, not wanting to reject the idea totally, I consulted as many 'human origins' books as I have (it's an interest of mine, so I have a fair number) and the age for cave-art seems to be no more than 40,000 years ago, 50,000 being the extreme limit beyond which there was no mention of cave-painting. Either all the references I consulted were way off, or that article you quoted from is not being entirely honest. Which to believe, which to believe… ?

  26. There are documented, though somewhat argued, instances of Nederthal art work. I did overstate it re: cave painting – my honest mistake from misrembering (my numbers came from my memories of classes long ago as well!) and not having readily available resources to check my memory at the time of writing the original post. Yes, I realize that the Internet is a research resource but it is bewildering to try to find authoratative anthopological sources on the net.

  27. Well, that article seems to have been printed on Science Magazine. The 50.000 limit seems to be consist with the Cave Paintings here in Brazil.

    http://www.athenapub.com/10pfurad.htm

    "These new results push back the time of human occupation at the Pedra Furada site by at least another 8,000 years relative to the previous results. Hence, it appears that humans were already at this site about 60,000 years ago, and possibly even earlier."

    It was used considered that rock art and pre-historic fragments in Brazil and South America would not be as old as in Europe, now this is being challenged.

  28. David wrote:

    "Look at any calendar. The week begins on Sunday, and ends on Saturday."

    I did, and guess what: Most of them start on Monday and end on Sunday.

    The exception was the TV-guide, which starts on Saturday and ends on Friday.

    Repeat after me:

    "America is not the center of the universe. America is not the center of the universe …"

  29. Delance wrote:

    "Christianity is not very specific to any culture or time period. It has existed since late antiquity, the middle ages, renascence, modern age, industrial age, and is as strong as ever. It’s not eurocentric, either, there are african and middle-eastern rites that developed in parallel with the Church in Europe. It’s the first truly universal institution that I’m aware of. Anyone, from anyplace, any background, regardless of race, gender of social status can join."

    True, anyone can join. However, the same can be said of most religions. Christianity started out as a tiny jewish sect, and managed to grow by swallowing up smaller local religious cults and their rituals and iconography. And it grew to the size it is today by becoming the major religion in Western Europe. It became global when the conquerers started exploring the furthest reaches of the planet, and slaying or converting the people they ran into in the name of the church.

    The reason christianity is as big as it is today is because one of its purposes is to spread out and convert more people.

    "Why would be all religions but one being wrong less likely than all religions being wrong?"

    Why would "no unicorns exist except an invisible pink one" be any less likely than a simple "unicorns don't exist at all"?

    Howcome a believer's mind is able to make the likely conclusion when the subject is preposterous and silly, but not when it concerns their cherished belief?

  30. That’s illogical. Religion answers question. There’s at least one right answer. Of course, from the point of view of probability, the chance of any give answer is low. But, just like a lottery ticked, the chance of one right answer existing is 100%. The point is not being a cherished belief; the point is being a rational one. The idea that the belief in God is as irrational and silly as a “pink unicorn”, is, on itself, a fairly tale designed to make a belief system easier to accept. But it’s just crude straw man fallacy. Mocking can make the mocker group feel more secure, but it doesn't make it right.

    The assumption of your premise is that ordinary people are brainwashed into believing in God, but, otherwise, would have no reason to. That’s a common atheist fantasy, and that’s demonstrably false. A lot of people raised as atheists turn up quite religious, and vice versa. Everyone has their own path. The decision to believe in God can come from a logical reasoning of the evidence. To deny dogmatically that this can happen is silly.

  31. Delance wrote:

    "Religion answers question."

    Yes, it answers some questions. Although none of the answers are at all satisfactory, or even usefull, unless you start out with the a priory assumption that god exists. If you're unsure about that basic premise, everything else falls apart, because it's all based on that simple assumption.

    As such, religion answers many questions, ranging from "why do we live" to "why do we die", and many other questions in between. And it also used to answer a lot of questions that science now has a satisfactory alternative answer for as well. And then there's even some people who'll stick with the dogmatic answer because the scientific answer is causing too much contradiction in their world view. But in the end, all the answers are supposition and assumption, based on a premise that we can't confirm or refute.

    So while religion may answer many a question for you, it doesn't answer anything at all for me. On the contrary, it just makes me wonder time and again how perfectly sane and intelligent people can make such a huge unfounded leap of faith while at the same time claiming to be skeptical of all things without evidence …

    But I'll just chalk that up as yet another one of life's mysteries. Perhaps to be explained some day, with the proper research.

  32. "Yes, it answers some questions. Although none of the answers are at all satisfactory, or even usefull, unless you start out with the a priory assumption that god exists. If you’re unsure about that basic premise, everything else falls apart, because it’s all based on that simple assumption."

    That's simply not true. The question about the existence of God is one of the answers sought, and, by definition, are not an a priori assumption. Before St. Thomas Aquinas would do anything else, he made a good philosophical case for the existence of God. So, as a matter of factual reality, he didn't start with this assumption. René Decarts also came to the conclusion that God existed after the “Cogito Ergo Sum”. He didn't start with this assumption either.

    "As such, religion answers many questions, ranging from “why do we live” to “why do we die“, and many other questions in between. And it also used to answer a lot of questions that science now has a satisfactory alternative answer for as well. And then there’s even some people who’ll stick with the dogmatic answer because the scientific answer is causing too much contradiction in their world view."

    That’s a misconception. Religion and Science deals with a different set of questions and answers. They are not alternatives of the same thing. Meaning and purpose, for example, are questions that completely elude the scientific method, by design. But just because this particular method can’t research this subject is not a reason to write it out of existence.

    "But in the end, all the answers are supposition and assumption, based on a premise that we can’t confirm or refute. So while religion may answer many a question for you, it doesn’t answer anything at all for me. On the contrary, it just makes me wonder time and again how perfectly sane and intelligent people can make such a huge unfounded leap of faith while at the same time claiming to be skeptical of all things without evidence … But I’ll just chalk that up as yet another one of life’s mysteries. Perhaps to be explained some day, with the proper research."

    The assumption that there can be no evidence for or against the existence of God is mistaken. There is such a thing as philosophical evidence. God can be known by human reason, without resorting to any sort of revelation or supernatural experience. And while you might disagree with it, to deny it can exist is an entirely different thing.

  33. DeLance – sorry I didn't get a chance to respond until now. I imagine this comes too late, but here it is anyway.

    The purpose of religion in general (including Catholicism), from the beginning of time, is to calm the psychological uneasiness of life's tough questions (i.e. Why are we here? Do we have a purpose? Do people who get away with bad things ever get punished? Do wrongs ever get righted? What happens to us after we die?), to create a structure of morality (humans have shown, largely by their creation of religious and also social laws, that they have a desire to define what is right and wrong; religion as well as secular law is an expression of this), and to provide a social network of like-minded people; a sense of community.

    Now, let's start from the top.

    So you agree that it would be illogical to say something is true because we can't understand it. Then you agree that we don't/can't understand God. Then you conclude from those statements – ergo, God exists. Hm.

    The one thing you said that I agree with is that it would be a fallacy to conclude that because we don't understand, he doesn't exist. That's why I'm agnostic. I admit it – I don't know.

    I do believe there's enough evidence to conclude that the Christian God doesn't exist, at least not in the way that Christians claim he does. There is absolutely no evidence that a higher being, if one exists, is aware of us collectively, much less individually. In fact, the evidence points to the opposite. So yes, there may be a higher being, but I believe that that being is either unaware of us, doesn't care about us, or is unable to intervene in our lives.

    As far as the "if I interpret the Bible literally, it's my own fault it doesn't make sense to me it" metaphor, can you help me make sense of the death, child-beating, and rape scriptures?

    This part isn't really relevant, but I just have to comment on the "it's not Eurocentric, either" comment. Of course it's not Eurocentric; you don't have to be a Bible scholar to know that Christianity originated in the Middle East – quite close to Africa. In fact, it's relatively well-known that Jesus wasn't white. (I have a clan of prejudiced, yet holier-than-thou family members in Carolina who would have a cow if they realized that they were worshipping a colored person. The father of the clan actually said once that he didn't want to hear about black people going to his former college.) Yes, Christianity is about as far from Eurocentric as can be. It was only brought to Europe by political moves and Christianity stole their holidays from the former religion, paganism (as a way to keep the pagans from being too upset about the new religion).

    Also, regarding "It’s the first truly universal institution that I’m aware of. Anyone, from anyplace, any background, regardless of race, gender of social status can join ", are you aware of Buddhism? What about cults? Most cults will take/recruit anyone! Also, it's only relatively recently (largely due to separation of church and state, which gives us freedom of (from) religion) that "anyone can join". I'll happily quote you more verses straight from the Bible stating who can't join. Besides men with damaged testicles (verse included in my original post), children of single moms cannot join, nor their descendents for 10 generations. And there are a host of others. This is the church adapting to their loss of power by adapting the Word to be more warm and fuzzy because it's not "the law" to be Christian anymore.

    Another thing, you say in the same breath that "Christianity is as strong as ever" and that it's "not very popular these days". I agree, not relevant, but you addressed it. Christianity is as strong as ever. In the US, 80% of people consider themselves Christian and George HW Bush said that atheists should not be allowed to be citizens. I hope that helps your confusion.

    Last, "Why would be all religions but one being wrong be less likely than all religions being wrong?"

    Research (done by Michael Shermer, with corroborating studies) shows that people are the religion that they are for two reasons:

    Their parents brought them up to believe that religion

    The religion provides psychological comfort to them.

    What does that mean? That means that if you were born in Europe before Christianity, your parents would have indoctrinated you into the pagan gods and pagan rituals. And your peers would have reinforced that was the one true religion. And this holds for countless other cultures over countless periods of time. Cultures typically believe the religion that’s popular in their part of the world, during their particular time period. The odds of your parents indoctrinating you into the "one" true religion, which just happens to be the religion that is popular in our culture, right now, is extremely unlikely. And to say that Christianity has survived X number of cultures – not really, at least not the same brand of Christianity. That's part of what is so wishy-washy about Christianity to me – it changes its face constantly to accommodate its purpose based on nothing more than a new rationale/interpretation or a guy with a new opinion. Now, to answer your question, given that there's no evidence that the higher power, if there is one, is aware of us in any way; and given the inherent human need to answer life's tough questions, create moral structure, have a sense of community, etc etc; and given the fact that there are so many religions with all of these things in common; and given that ALL of these religions are bound by time period and social norm – none appear to display timeless, consistent, inerrant wisdom (as a real "God" would); the best answer is that humans created religion to satisfy their needs.

  34. sraiche,

    I agree that one of the purposes of religion is answer difficult questions and comfort and a sense of community are one of the consequences, but that's not really an argument either for or against the validity of their beliefs.

    "So you agree that it would be illogical to say something is true because we can’t understand it. Then you agree that we don’t/can’t understand God. Then you conclude from those statements – ergo, God exists. Hm."

    That's a misrepresentation of what I said. I didn't say God exist because we can't understand Him. There's no causality there. That's not an argument in favor or against of the existence of God. The fact that we can't understand God is not even a religious idea, but a logical necessity.

    "As far as the “if I interpret the Bible literally, it’s my own fault it doesn’t make sense to me it” metaphor, can you help me make sense of the death, child-beating, and rape scriptures?"

    The metaphor part was an example, not a generic response. As a Catholic, of course, I read scripture within the framework of Church teaching. That might actually help. If you mention the passages, I could actually try to answer your question, if it was not a rhetorical one.

    "Besides men with damaged testicles (verse included in my original post), children of single moms cannot join, nor their descendents for 10 generations."

    I have no concept of any prohibition of children of single moms or man with damaged testicles not being able to join the Catholic Church.

    "Another thing, you say in the same breath that “Christianity is as strong as ever” and that it’s “not very popular these days”."

    Popularity isn't necessarily strength. From my experience on internet forums and normal social interactions, whenever a change is given, there’ll be no shortage of people will slamming Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.

    "That’s part of what is so wishy-washy about Christianity to me – it changes its face constantly to accommodate its purpose based on nothing more than a new rationale/interpretation or a guy with a new opinion."

    That's definitely not true. A lot of people slam the Church for not adapting to the modern times, for sticking with "old" ideas. The Church, on the other hand, holds that Truth doesn't change with time. The Church doesn’t adapt its teaching to fit what’s popular right now, and truth is not decided by a majority vote.

    "The religion provides psychological comfort to them."

    Why would anyone adopt something that gives them psychological discomfort? Does skepticism make you unhappy and insecure? Or maybe what provides psychological comfort is to think you've found the right answer, even if it's a negative one? Of course being brought up on a religion or finding psychological comfort are factors, but to consider that this sums up the entire religious experience is reductionism.

    "In the US, 80% of people consider themselves Christian and George HW Bush said that atheists should not be allowed to be citizens. I hope that helps your confusion."

    Of those 80% self-appointed Christians, how many of them are Dan Brown fans? Brazil has nominally 70% Catholics, but if you count the “non-practicing”, the number goes down to about 25%.

    I’d have to get a hold of the exact quote and context of what George HW Bush said, but I don’t understand what that’s supposed to mean. It's quite obvious Christians and atheists can co-exist. Brazil has a Catholic majority and our courthouses and legal houses have a Cross. But Fernando Henrique Cardoso, our president for 8 years, is a non-believer. No one cares. I voted for him twice. He went to Church, arguably more often than our “catholic” president, spoke with the bishops, and acted very normally. It's a big no-issue unless someone makes it one.

    I think there are evidence of timeless, consistent, inerrant wisdom, as well as the presence of God within human history. However we could spend decades debating such evidence. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s room for such debate. People don’t believe in religion solely for comfort or tradition, but maybe they did research the subject and came to this conclusion.

    I’m not saying men can’t create a religion to answer these questions. They often do. It seems to me most people have some kind of answer for those questions, even at an unconscious level. Why? Maybe this need is inherent to sentient beings. Maybe it’s an evolutionary trait. Either way, studying why man asks those questions don’t provide the answers.

  35. Delance wrote:

    "That’s simply not true. The question about the existence of God is one of the answers sought, and, by definition, are not an a priori assumption. Before St. Thomas Aquinas would do anything else, he made a good philosophical case for the existence of God. So, as a matter of factual reality, he didn’t start with this assumption. René Decarts also came to the conclusion that God existed after the “Cogito Ergo Sum”. He didn’t start with this assumption either."

    Oh but they did start out with that assumption. They didn't simply say "OK, let's be complete atheists for a moment and see if we can think of a logical philosophical construct that proves god exists." The very fact that you'd want to find some proof that god exists is already clear evidence of your bias. You believe god exists, and you logical ways to deduce that he exist all start out from the subconscious belief that he does. And as such their logic doesn't hold up when you don't believe god exists.

    Besides that, if you were to momentarily become fully atheist then you'd have no inclination to think of a way to prove the existence of a being you don't believe exists in the first place. Just like very few people have any desire to figure out logical philosophical constructs to prove the existence of invisible pink unicorns inhabiting their basement.

    "That’s a misconception. Religion and Science deals with a different set of questions and answers. They are not alternatives of the same thing. Meaning and purpose, for example, are questions that completely elude the scientific method, by design. But just because this particular method can’t research this subject is not a reason to write it out of existence."

    I think the difference between religious people and atheists is that atheists have reconciled themselves with the idea that life doesn't have to have a purpose. Religion, indeed, serves as a lifesaver for those people who desperately need there to be a reason for things they don't understand, like their own existence, the death of people they love, the knowledge that they, too, will one day be gone, and the insecurity that comes with that knowledge.

    You'd be surprised to know how liberating it can be to just let go of all those big unanswerable questions and stop caring. So what if life doesn't have a pre-designed purpose? I'll just find my own. And I'll enjoy this life to the fullest, because it's the only one I have to enjoy. And as a result of that, I'll also allow other people and animals to enjoy their life to the fullest, I respect their right to live, and that means I am less inclined to kill a spider or a fly needlessly, cause deliberate harm, or do something that makes another person unhappy.

    "The assumption that there can be no evidence for or against the existence of God is mistaken. There is such a thing as philosophical evidence. God can be known by human reason, without resorting to any sort of revelation or supernatural experience. And while you might disagree with it, to deny it can exist is an entirely different thing."

    It's true, there can be evidence of god. Genuine physical evidence at that. It's very unlikely though that we'll ever find evidence against god.

    As for philosophical evidence? Humans "knowing"? That's just bullshit. For all the philosophical constructs and reasoning you can come up with to prove god exists, just as many can be made up that prove the exact opposite. Or simply change "god" with "invisible pink unicorn" and you'll understand why none of them prove anything at all.

    "I’m not saying men can’t create a religion to answer these questions. They often do. It seems to me most people have some kind of answer for those questions, even at an unconscious level. Why? Maybe this need is inherent to sentient beings. Maybe it’s an evolutionary trait. Either way, studying why man asks those questions don’t provide the answers."

    It won't provide the answers to the questions asked, but it might provide an answer that makes those questions obsolete, or at least knowing why we wan't to know those things may make us feel less insecure. Or perhaps we'vde known the answer all along, but we don't like it and hang on to religion because it gives us an answer we like better.

    The answer to the question "why do we exist?" for example being: "There is no reason."

    "What happens after we die?": "Our cells are broken apart as our bodies decompose and get eaten by worms, molds and bacteria, until there is nothing left."

    I could give many more examples of questions that can have very simple answers, but which just have a lot more uplifting and hopefull answers when those are provided by religion.

  36. DeLance:

    "I agree that one of the purposes of religion is answer difficult questions and comfort and a sense of community are one of the consequences, but that’s not really an argument either for or against the validity of their beliefs."

    I wasn't claiming it was. You specifically asked me what the point of Catholicism was, so I was answering you.

    "If you mention the passages, I could actually try to answer your question, if it was not a rhetorical one."

    The passages, with verse #s, are in my original post.

    "That’s definitely not true. A lot of people slam the Church for not adapting to the modern times, for sticking with “old” ideas. The Church, on the other hand, holds that Truth doesn’t change with time. The Church doesn’t adapt its teaching to fit what’s popular right now, and truth is not decided by a majority vote."

    We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. The church has bent every which way to accomodate whatever the social norms.

    "Why would anyone adopt something that gives them psychological discomfort? Does skepticism make you unhappy and insecure?"

    Absolutely. Many skeptics agree that a life of skepticism is an uneasy (and often lonely) existence. But we prioritize a sincere search for truth over psychological comfort based on ideas that (a) don't make sense, or (b) have been shown to be wrong.

    "Of those 80% self-appointed Christians, how many of them are Dan Brown fans?"

    The 80% is from the 2001 U.S. Census – that was before Dan Brown.

    "I’d have to get a hold of the exact quote and context of what George HW Bush said"

    A link to what he said is in my post "Sunday Sermon Part Deux". It was said in 1987, when 90% of U.S. Citizens considered themselves Christian, and atheism was at less than 10%. Athiests didn't make up a big enough voting demographic to matter.

  37. sraiche wrote:

    "We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. The church has bent every which way to accomodate whatever the social norms."

    I think when DeLance says the church doesn't change, he's being a bit shortsighted.

    It's true, that the church hasn't changed a lot of things in the past century, but as we all know, it's been around in some form for the past 2000 years, and it has changed a lot in that time. Perhaps to us, right now, the church seems outdated and unwilling to change, but anyone from the 13th century probably wouldn't even recognize it as "the Catholic church".

    How much longer until women and gay men can become priests? Until the church reverses its position on the use of birthcontrol? Or abortion?

    In fact, if they don't change their position on some of those real quick, they could slowly bleed to death.

  38. exarch and sraiche,

    You both bring up some interesting points. The Church won’t change its position on any fundamental aspect of the Truth. Even if almost every single other Christian denomination to my knowledge caved in on divorce, the Church didn’t. Same deal with Birth Control. The position on the destruction of embryonic human life, including abortion, is consistent. The exceptions are rationally defined, and new technologies will be interpreted in a similar way. What has been dogmatically defined can’t be changed. Even a Pope decides to ordain woman, he can’t. The Catholic position is that truth is not decided by a majority vote. The Profession of Faith repeated in every mass state the same truths as the Creed of Nicea, from 325 A. D.

    That’s not to say the Church has stopped in time. The militant Church exists within time, and interacts accordingly. The Truth is represents, however, exists outside time and doesn’t change.

    It strikes me as odd that you’d say the Church hasn’t changed much in the last century, considering the general perception that the most dramatic changed in centuries occurred with the Vatican II Council.

    I must contend that a 13th Century Catholic would recognize “the Catholic truth”. If you have any doubts, you can read the opinion of one:

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

    Or, if medieval writing style turns you off, you could give Chesterton a try, he writes about Aquinas beautifully.

    http://www.dur.ac.uk/martin.ward/gkc/books/aquinas.html

    On a last note, the empirical evidence weights against the notion that not changing is harmful. Being a Catholic is not about finding something you like, or makes you conformable, but finding the Truth, which is very hard. It’s not an easy religion to live by.

  39. Well then let's put it this way:

    Perhaps the church isn't budging on the position of divorce, birth control, abortion, female priests, gay priests, etc… But that's not stopping its followers from having divorces, using birth control, getting abortions, and priests coming out of the closet and admitting they're gay.

    I guess what it means is that if the church won't change its position on what exactly is "a true christian™", then it'll eventually end up being a religion that has no real followers left, because although people may pretend to be true christians™, they all ultimately fail to live up to the requirements. It would make the catholic church an organisation of liars and fakes.

  40. exarch,

    It has always been this way: "Thou shall not kill" never eradicated murder. Of course it's not a requirement that the person never sins, that's impossible. Another different thing is to reject the validity of the rule: a pro-abortion catholic is arguably faking it, or at least is in a serious contradiction. A real mockery would be to compromise the truth for the sake of convinience. As I mentioned before, of the 70% nominally catholics in my country, only about 25% calls themselves "practising".

  41. I do not necessarily agree that a Christian can NOT reconcile the various passages of the Bible because of the contradictory nature of the text itself. (“Right in the middle of a contradiction, that’s the place to be” – Sam Shepard.) It may be true that even the four gospels do not reconcile at certain levels. (e.g., The account of Pilate questioning Jesus – which asks the fundamental question of whether Jesus IS in fact King of the Jews – is quite inconsistent and illustrative of the differences between John (the last of the books to be written) and Matthew, Mark, and Luke.) Nonetheless, I do not believe that these inconstencies create an “impossible” religion (even though I do not subscribe to it).

    The problem that I do have with “good Christians” and the one immutable tenet of Christianity which distinguishes it from Judaism: the New Testament MUST, by the nature of the faith itself, trump the Old Testament. And in this respect, I agree with a comment you (Stacey) made on another blog – Christians, even “intellectual” Christians, simply choose paths of convenience and rationalization rather than trying to apply the HARD “truths” of their faith.

    The best example is that the vast majority of Christians support the death penalty. First of all, there is no evidence that imposing the death penalty (when the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976) deters the commission of capital offenses. In its modern application, it is estimated that less than 3% of people who commit capital murder actually receive the death penalty. (i.e., So how could it serve as a deterrent?) More to the point, considering that many on death row consist of drivers of get-away cars or co-conspirators who did not “pull the trigger” (but are deemed guilty of “felony murder”), it is unlikely that criminals are even capable (assuming they act rationally) of weighing the risk of capital punishment. (This observation comes from personal knowledge.) To put it simply, capital punishment is an exercise in retributive justice.

    That said, it is the Old Testament principle of an “eye for an eye” that is cited by many “good Christians” as support for the death penalty, despite the fact that the context of these passages is arguably a description of civic law and not spiritual law. (Exodus 21: 23-27; Leviticus 24: 19-20.) That said, even the Fifth Commandment, which IS a law handed down by god in the Old Testament, is unequivocal – “Thou shall not kill” (as opposed to “Thou shall not kill unless …”). In any case, Jesus throws out eye-for-an-eye explicitly and instructs Christians to turn the other cheek, and throughout the New Testament, Jesus consistently places the concept of forgiveness above that of fairness or justice. (Matthew 5: 38-39.) Indeed, he offers redemption for the men being crucified next to him for crimes they DID commit. (Luke 23: 39-43.) My point: What more evidence is there that capital punishment is wrong under Christian theology? There is NO ambiguity.

    Nonetheless, the vast majority of “good Christians” I have discussed this with disagree. It appears that it is really easy to recognize the intrinsic, unconditional value life when it is an innocent fetus – particularly when it is a life you don’t have to take care of. But somehow that belief in the unconditional quality of life itself gets lost when it gets harder to defend – such as the life of a murderer.

    In my experience, when you ask a pro-death penalty Christian (most of them) to justify this inconsistency, they either: (a) end the discussion, usually with something along the lines of “you’re not a Christian so you wouldn’t understand”; or (b) recognize that you are probably right, but they have a limit to which they can aspire to be like Jesus (i.e., “I believe Christianity, I just can’t live it”).

    I think that what is REALLY throwing Christianity into a tailspin is the emergence over the last few decades of the gnostic gospels within relatively newly-discovered texts that are as old as those for which the synoptic gospels are based. Notably, these gospels do not refer to Jesus as the Son of God. (In fact, there is only passage in each of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus actually refers to himself as the Son of God (Matthew 26: 63-64; Mark 14: 61-62; Luke 22: 70) – rather thosse references are usually some bystander impressed by his miracles, a mocking Pharisee or Roman governer, or the Devil.) I see alot of Christians starting read about how the “Bible” was actually put together, after the fundamentalists quashed the gnostics several hundred years after Jesus died. This was a period when the masses could not even read the Bible. I believe Christianity will experience a serious revolution within the next hundred years. Where that revolution will take the significant percentage of the world that subscribes to this point of view is another question.

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