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Thursday, August 08, 2013

A fallen atheist

This self-described fallen atheist appears to have realized, as a result of up close and personal experience with the weak and the broken, that kicking away the crutch upon which people are leaning is not the act of a brave intellectual or an honest seeker after truth.  Even if the crutch is an intellectual placebo.

It is the cruel and thoughtless act of a self-centered asshole:
I heard how the small cross in Takeesha’s purse offered her protection when getting into a strangers car. “When I climb into that car God comes with me and keeps me safe.”

I heard how Neecy found the strength to try and find a better life in her Bible.

I heard how Michael’s Rosary “Was a reminder that there is something better than all of this.”

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: An intellectual luxury for those who have done well.
It isn't a coincidence that the rise of the New Atheism coincided with the peak of the greatest credit boom in history.  And it isn't an accident that the New Atheists are increasingly seen as intellectual embarrassments only five years into the Great Depression 2.0.

There is no shortage of scientific evidence that religion is, at worst, a placebo. Even if we assume that religion is entirely false, how can anyone who claims to possess any ethics, let alone superior and rationally determined ethics, possibly justify harming others by intentionally eliminating that placebo effect?

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317 Comments:

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Blogger A August 08, 2013 1:06 PM  

Not trying to troll, and as a caveat I am a Christian, but, how does this reasoning differ from; "I heard how Takeesha's feminism offered her protection when getting into a strangers car because she knows feminine biased laws will keep her safe" or "I heard how Neecy found the strength to try and find a better life by being a strong independent woman" and so forth.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 1:08 PM  

To be fair, the belief that a harsh truth is to be preferred to a comforting lie is a principle often advocated by both Christian and materialist atheist thinkers. And the thing about the placebo effect is that like any other psychological habit, it can become a dependency that can sometimes interfere with the acknowledgement, adoption or outcome of more objectively effective methods -- letting someone who used a placebo for pain relief stay with the placebo, even after an actually effective anaesthetic drug became available, would not be considered ethical.

I do not find it implausible that any given atheist might seek to disabuse religious people of their "pleasant but ultimately obstructive delusion" with only the most genuinely sincere good intentions. I *do*, however, find it implausible that most atheists in practice actually *do* retain such good intentions, especially since the room in which opponents on the topic can agree to live and let live seems to be shrinking by the day.

Blogger Doorstop August 08, 2013 1:10 PM  

this is definite yttik bait...

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:19 PM  

At this point, anything is yttik bait. Even if the Great Debate posts were simply reposted, she would find ample reason to talk about herself.

Blogger wrf3 August 08, 2013 1:20 PM  

Stephen J wrote: ...it can become a dependency that can sometimes interfere with the acknowledgement, adoption or outcome of more objectively effective methods.

Is atheism objectively more effective for dealing with life than religion in general and Christianity in particular?

That's a hard argument for them to make, since we seem to have evolved to believe. If they're going to claim that they can do a better job than millions of years of evolution, then I want to see the evidence.

Anonymous DT August 08, 2013 1:20 PM  

Even if we assume that religion is entirely false, how can anyone who claims to possess any ethics, let alone superior and rationally determined ethics, possibly justify harming others by intentionally eliminating that placebo effect?

I just assumed most atheists had aspergers. Am I wrong?

Anonymous inhumanist August 08, 2013 1:21 PM  

No religionz is the cause of all war and sufferingz! Nevermind actually Googling "religion is healthy" or "list of all wars" or something, that would be too difficult for Rational Response Squad types, busy printing t-shirts, writing the gangster rap bible, smoking dope, having gay sex, and all.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:22 PM  

Not trying to troll, and as a caveat I am a Christian, but, how does this reasoning differ from; "I heard how Takeesha's feminism offered her protection when getting into a strangers car because she knows feminine biased laws will keep her safe" or "I heard how Neecy found the strength to try and find a better life by being a strong independent woman" and so forth.

Numerous studies have shown that the religious have better lives than the non religious (smoking, health, life expectancy, happiness, etc). I'm not aware of any for feminism. Also, feminism is similar to new atheism in that it peaks with the economy.

Anonymous Bob August 08, 2013 1:23 PM  

Without some sort of recognition of a reality that transcends material existence, there is no meaning to life...period. "Meaning" has no meaning.

So why all the atheist proselytizing? I can understand a theist who wishes to convert others to his point of view, because his point of view matters.

Once you become an atheist, it should be game over for all that. Why change opinions? Your next course of action should be to immediately kill yourself. Life has no meaning.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:24 PM  

I just assumed most atheists had aspergers. Am I wrong?

Nope, and the little beasts are quite proud of their aspie condition because it both gives them victim status and it shows that they are so much smarter than theists.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:25 PM  

So why all the atheist proselytizing?

Because they hate God.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 1:27 PM  

"Is atheism objectively more effective for dealing with life than religion in general and Christianity in particular? ...If they're going to claim that they can do a better job than millions of years of evolution, then I want to see the evidence."

A reasonable question. Unfortunately, "lack of limits on sexual indulgence beyond mutual informed adult consent" seems to count as that sufficient evidence, for all too many people.

Anonymous rubbermallet August 08, 2013 1:28 PM  

religion is a crutch! *sucks back whiskey, takes puff of cigarette*

Blogger kurt9 August 08, 2013 1:30 PM  

This is why, regardless of one's personal beliefs, why I consider it rude to criticize the religious beliefs of others when they don't seek to impose it on others.

Live and let live, I say.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 1:30 PM  

I'm all for decentralization and liberty: you know, let them have their own country or county where they can try this stuff for themselves and get back to the rest of us with the results.

The desire to convert prior to any empirical experience is itself dubious... Christianity begins with 1000's of years of spiritual experience under its belt, prophets, holy people, sages, etc.

With the New Atheists it was like they discovered a special secret that only worked if EVERYONE believed it.

Sounds like a Ponzi Scheme to me.

Anonymous Surly August 08, 2013 1:32 PM  

Vox - Sorry to be OT, but I thought this might be of some interest to you:

democratic-anti-gun-guide-urged-using-trayvon-martins-death-to-hit-nra-guns

Even though this was already obvious, it's still a little jarring to see the left's intentional efforts to appeal to irrational emotionalism spelled out so clearly.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:34 PM  

Is atheism objectively more effective for dealing with life than religion in general and Christianity in particular?

Nope. We live in a poor fallen world filled with evil, pain, suffering, and death. Atheism looks at this world and offers nothing. Christianity looks at this world and offers Jesus. Jesus says, "let the little children come to me." "I will never leave you nor forsake you." He offers life. He offers a way out. He offers healing, salvation, and deliverance. What does PZ Meyers offer? A sexual harassment checklist for skeptics conferences?

Anonymous Stickwick August 08, 2013 1:40 PM  

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: An intellectual luxury for those who have done well.

This is what ticks me off royally about the typical evangelizing atheist. Can't remember if it was Hitchens or Dawkins, but one of them said that while he doesn't have eternity, what he does have is this really great meal to look forward to. Carl Sagan said something about finding meaning in the wonder and beauty of nature. Good for you, gentlemen. Now, what about some poor peasant in China who'll never have a really great meal or even experience clean water? What about some little girl in Africa who's had her arms chopped off and her father and brothers killed in some tribal war? What meaning is there for them in a godless universe? Only the worst kind of narcissistic, aristocratic asshole spouts off that he finds meaning in his fortunate place in the world knowing full well that most of the rest of the people who exist will never experience a life like his.

Anonymous Daniel August 08, 2013 1:40 PM  

A and Stephen J., what you are missing is that the atheist has no material principle by which to disabuse believers of their pretty little lies. They have no authority or instruction to do this. They have no ethical formation that should inspire them to tear down the icons of these people. There is no promise or even likelihood, that a life of atheism will give them the necessary dose of reality to get them off drugs.

Christianity claims many things, and directs many actions, and therefore, there is far more grounds for the Christian to say, "Do you realize that your feminism is a trap?" or whatever while the atheist has - if anything - a moral dictate to do nothing and say nothing. If there is nothing but matter - what can possibly be gained by turning addicts over to their pain, and shattering any illusion of relief?

An atheist who delights in cruelty and abuse has every right to kick out crutches and be a monster. Jeff Dahmer was a more honest atheist - the brightest of brights - in that regard. But an atheist who wants to fancy himself good will be compelled to hold his tongue in such circumstances, while the Christian will be under a different set of conditions.

There is a naturally occurring "double standard", if you will that applies differently for the believer in God than the believer in nothing.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 1:48 PM  

OT - Not sure if Vox (not being Orthodox) has heard of the Doxacon conference, but here's a report on it.

http://www.arimathea.org/index.php/j/p/doxacon_eidomenos/

I was unable to attend, familial duties being what they are, but I will certainly try to get to the next one they have in our area.

Blogger wrf3 August 08, 2013 1:50 PM  

Stephen J. wrote: Unfortunately, "lack of limits on sexual indulgence beyond mutual informed adult consent" seems to count as that sufficient evidence, for all too many people.

Well, Vox recently provided on one answer to that: hedonism encourages short timescale thinking, while civilization requires longer term thinking.

The Epicureans and Ray Bradbury said much the same thing.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 1:52 PM  

"Stephen J., what you are missing is that the atheist has no material principle by which to disabuse believers.... They have no authority or instruction to do this. They have no ethical formation that should inspire them to tear down the icons of these people."

"Authority" in the sense we as Christians think of authority, no, by definition. But most atheists at least start out with two sincere principles that are not in themselves bad things: 1) Honesty and truth are preferable to delusion and falsehood; and 2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found. Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level.

It should also be remembered that while the point of the original post is that atheism is a luxury of the materially wealthy who don't, in fact, usually have to put up with much material suffering, the extremely ironic flipside is that what little suffering such people *have* had to put up with often came from upbringings that called themselves religious. Religion is thus almost always seen as a *source* of suffering and very rarely as a solution *to* it.

Anonymous tornado August 08, 2013 1:55 PM  

Obama, antidepressants, Liberalism, and media...are the crutch of atheism...

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 1:58 PM  

the extremely ironic flipside is that what little suffering such people *have* had to put up with often came from upbringings that called themselves religious. Religion is thus almost always seen as a *source* of suffering and very rarely as a solution *to* it.

And most of the "suffering" is "I want to have sex now and the Bible says I can't!"

Blogger Iowahine August 08, 2013 1:58 PM  

So why all the atheist proselytizing? Because they hate God

People who reject God's moral authority believe others who hold to His moral authority are spoiling their fun, keeping them from enjoying their lives to the fullest (remember the ranting gay jogger), and causing all the world's big problems ("if only we could harvest placental stem cells from aborted babies, diseases could be cured," etc.). They reject God on the same basis. Convincing people that the world's ills are a result of belief in God (the irrational) is an attempt to find personal fulfillment as well as heaven on earth. To them, God is a cosmic killjoy and people who profess belief in Him make irrational decisions when voting (which affects all); worse still, believers inflict them with psychological distress that they then spend adult years trying to alleviate. They don't want others to experience the same damage as did they because of the lies of believers.

Anonymous Stickwick August 08, 2013 2:08 PM  

But most atheists at least start out with two sincere principles that are not in themselves bad things: 1) Honesty and truth are preferable to delusion and falsehood; and 2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found. Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level.

I'm not aware that Christians in general agree with #2. A lot of suffering is earned/justified, and some of it leads to very good things. In terms of science, it turns out that #2 is a principle that is, in and of itself, a bad thing. But that's contradicted by short-term thinking, so humanists automatically reject it. That humanism -- based on the principle that suffering == bad -- wreaks such havoc and misery should be sufficient evidence of its falsity.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 2:09 PM  

And most of the "suffering" is "I want to have sex now and the Bible says I can't!"

To be fair, if what the Bible was saying to you is, "You can't, ever -- at least not the way you can't help wanting to -- and you'll just have to live with that," most of us would consider that a legitimate source of suffering.

And while religious strictness in itself has nothing to do with child abuse, a number of abusive parents have justified their mistreatment of their children through (their misunderstanding of) their religion. The mistake that a number of atheists make is to conflate the justification with both the cause and the occurrence of the abuse, and to assume that to remove the former will infallibly remove the latter.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 2:15 PM  

To be fair, if what the Bible was saying to you is, "You can't, ever -- at least not the way you can't help wanting to -- and you'll just have to live with that," most of us would consider that a legitimate source of suffering.

Like pedophiles?

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 2:16 PM  

I'm not aware that Christians in general agree with #2. A lot of suffering is earned/justified, and some of it leads to very good things.

Yes, but much more of it isn't and doesn't, and it is a very dangerous temptation to judge someone else's suffering as "necessary" or "for their own good" and thus avoid any obligation to do anything about it, or even justify inflicting it in the first place when one doesn't have the assigned responsibility to do so. (After all, it is precisely the atheist conviction that they are acting for the believers' "own good" that leads them to try proselytizing them out of faith in the first place.)

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 2:19 PM  

That humanism -- based on the principle that suffering == bad -- wreaks such havoc and misery should be sufficient evidence of its falsity.

But they can has good intentions! Also, none of that suffering is their fault because it wasn't done in the name of humanism!

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 2:20 PM  

"Like pedophiles?"

In that I think it's reasonable to feel sorry for people with pedophilia, insofar as they are doomed to a life of loneliness that they didn't ask for, yes.

That does not for a nanosecond justify any suffering they inflict on others, but it doesn't make their suffering not suffering. It just means there exists no licit means to alleviate it yet.

Blogger James Dixon August 08, 2013 2:29 PM  

> But most atheists at least start out with two sincere principles that are not in themselves bad things: 1) Honesty and truth are preferable to delusion and falsehood 2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found.

But they have absolutely no way to demonstrate that those principles are correct. What if delusion and falsehood are actually better for most people. What if the people deliberately choose suffering?

> Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level....

Christians can point to the reason they hold these principles. What reason can the atheist point to?

Blogger wrf3 August 08, 2013 2:30 PM  

So, where are they? Usually the anklebiters would be swarming by now.

Anonymous tornado August 08, 2013 2:36 PM  

I had atheist friends...literally the most suicidal people if nothing goes their way. There is no maturity nor any peace in them.

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 2:36 PM  

You can't talk about evil and atheism. I am atheist, and there is no such thing as evil.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 2:37 PM  

Atheism / progressivism is always a forward-thinking philosophy. It doesn't focus on the Now, but on some future Better Place. The only comfort it can provide to those is in the gutter is either 1. an excuse to not give a damn about their state in life (a sort of secularized Karma) or 2. to rationalize more anti-social and self-destructive behavior.

Now, the real question is how does Protestantism differ, since progressivism and New Atheism are simply iterations of the Protestant heresy.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 2:39 PM  

Now, the real question is how does Protestantism differ, since progressivism and New Atheism are simply iterations of the Protestant heresy.

How so?

Anonymous Vidad August 08, 2013 2:39 PM  

@kurt9

"This is why, regardless of one's personal beliefs, why I consider it rude to criticize the religious beliefs of others when they don't seek to impose it on others.

Live and let live, I say."

Your philosophy may be better than some others on offer; however, if a Christian fails to share his beliefs with others and refuses to engage with those outside his faith, he's not doing the "live and let live" thing. Instead, he's "living and letting go to hell."

If you espouse Christianity yet fail to engage those plummeting into eternal judgement (as the biblical worldview teaches), you're doing something far worse than simply being rude.

Anonymous Vidad August 08, 2013 2:41 PM  

"Now, the real question is how does Protestantism differ, since progressivism and New Atheism are simply iterations of the Protestant heresy."

What, 'cause we're not following the antichrist in Rome?

Anonymous cheddarman August 08, 2013 2:41 PM  

Dread Ilk,

we ought to pray for him, someone so honest may not be far from the Kingdom.

sincerely

cheddarman

Blogger JartStar August 08, 2013 2:42 PM  

Trying to kick out the crutch is only half of the problem, the other half after the crutch is kicked (or as they kick it) they don't say, "Go your own way", but rather "You must live how I say".

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 2:44 PM  

@Steve J

It is said that Darwin himself rejected his Unitarian belief (though what belief Unitarianism really constitutes is another question) due to this sort of 'genteel religious abuse.' It is always worth remembering that among other things, suffering is relative: to a person who has lost 6 family members losing another one will not be a huge blow, but to one who has never witnessed death the news of an aunt dying in their sleep might cause great shock and dismay. Even though the effect of pain can be shown to be somewhat objective in terms of affecting sleep patterns, by in large pain tolerance can reduce the experienced effect of the pain. What I mean to say then is that what constitutes abuse for the genteel and civilized might cause some head-shaking and shrugging for the poor and marginalized.

"They made you go to church when you didn't want to and told you God abhorred homosexuality? Well, we had much worse happen to us outside of that, so in comparison, religion was good all around."

One theme of the scriptures and a lot of ancient wisdom literature is how wealth can ruin a person or people; we are told by the Fathers that Sodom and Gomorrah did not fall because they decided homosexuality was a cool thing, but because of 'a surfeit of bread' - wealth and gluttony led to their other excesses.

As for the original Darwin story it was a very insensitive sermon given at the death of his only child... something that would in most circumstances simply be considered distasteful and tactless to be said in the presence of a grieving person. Something to the effect of "Heaven is made for such as these!"

Grief is a species of anger and it is a purely genteel crime to offend a grieving parent at a funeral. If Darwin had had other children, he might have just shrugged it off, too.

Anonymous Stickwick August 08, 2013 2:45 PM  

Yes, but much more of it isn't and doesn't, and it is a very dangerous temptation to judge someone else's suffering as "necessary" or "for their own good" and thus avoid any obligation to do anything about it, or even justify inflicting it in the first place when one doesn't have the assigned responsibility to do so. (After all, it is precisely the atheist conviction that they are acting for the believers' "own good" that leads them to try proselytizing them out of faith in the first place.)

This just shows how insidious the humanist ideology is. On what basis do you judge that much more suffering is bad than good? I don't think that is the Christian perspective at all. The kind of suffering brought about by disobedience to God can be thought of as bad, but even then a Christian could more properly think of it as a corrective measure to get a person back on track. The sort of suffering that appears to be unearned -- like a person getting cancer for no apparent reason or a couple losing a child to a malady that was no fault of her own -- still serves a purpose. My husband and I had a year of great suffering last year, in which both of those things happened to us and more, but we are doing better than ever. The suffering brought us closer to God, closer to each other, and has made us more compassionate about the suffering of others. How can that possibly be considered a bad thing? And let me point out that there is choice involved -- we chose for this suffering to have meaning and for it to do good in our lives -- and everyone has the free will to make the same choice (or not). C. S. Lewis stated that a God who truly loves his children would not prevent them from suffering, because it prepares them for the perfection of spiritual life. Since suffering is inevitable, it must serve a purpose in a purposeful universe. Science is fully on the side of the Christian in this regard. And, again, the fact that the humanist ideology -- which is based first and foremost on principle #2 -- is the most powerfully destructive force known to mankind should be sufficient to disprove principle #2.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 2:45 PM  

2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found. Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level.

From what I have been given to understand, it's less about "suffering is bad" and more about "love thy neighbor".

Anonymous TED August 08, 2013 2:45 PM  

"There is no shortage of scientific evidence that religion is, at worst, a placebo. "

Except for the whole flying airplanes into buildings. And clitoridectomies.

Yes, I'm singling out one particular religion.

Blogger JartStar August 08, 2013 2:47 PM  

You can't talk about evil and atheism. I am atheist, and there is no such thing as evil.

I've read enough of your writing here dh, that I wonder if you really believe the last part of statement, "there is no such thing as evil".

Anonymous TED August 08, 2013 2:48 PM  

Islam is good for you?

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 2:48 PM  

"But they have absolutely no way to demonstrate that those principles are correct."

No, but if you are starting from them as axioms, you do not need to, rhetorically: an axiom is by definition the premise that underlies all methodologies of proof and cannot itself be "proven", only accepted, stipulated to, or rejected.

And I would suggest that it is very hard to argue that honesty is not preferable to falsehood (for if it is not, then there is no point arguing about it, since no one is then obliged to argue honestly) or that suffering in general is not to be avoided and mitigated rather than embraced and aggravated, where (and this is the crucial Christian caveat) a licit means exist to do the former.

(For sake of clarity I should further note here that I am not arguing the atheist case myself; I am merely attempting to explain -- as much to myself out loud as anyone else -- why some atheists may not see it as a bad thing to proselytize unbelief to believers.)

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 2:48 PM  

@Sig

In general Christians do not consider suffering bad, though suffering is an evil.

1. A Christian would not want to cause another person to suffer
2. A Christian would never intentionally avoid suffering

So as I understand it there is a kind of Christianity that is kind of completely suffering adverse (this is called 'Therapeutic Deism') but traditional Christianity considers suffering avoidance as the default posture as cowardice. The Martyrs who hated to suffer were those who didn't make it; who were not crowned.

And there's also the fact that Christians are glad when evil men suffer, because through that suffering they might repent.

It's a complicated topic.

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 2:50 PM  

I've read enough of your writing here dh, that I wonder if you really believe the last part of statement, "there is no such thing as evil".

I suppose it depends on the day of the week... athiests do have to live in a sort of state of suspended disbelief. Because we all want to have the idea of good and evil, but we have to know that it's not universally sourced. (And I say the same thing about Christians, who have different views of good and evil based on their sect).

Anonymous Vidad August 08, 2013 2:50 PM  

"Islam is good for you?"

Well, it did manage to make Saudi Arabia's roads the safest in the world.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 2:50 PM  

Now, the real question is how does Protestantism differ, since progressivism and New Atheism are simply iterations of the Protestant heresy.

It's going to be fun to watch someone explain how "that dude in Rome is not infallible" is somehow the same thing as "there is no god."

I'm putting my money on "it's a matter of degree", which is very much like the One Less God mindgame. Any takers?

Blogger haus frau August 08, 2013 2:51 PM  

To be fair, the belief that a harsh truth is to be preferred to a comforting lie is a principle often advocated by both Christian and materialist atheist thinkers..............
Maybe, but the difference as far as I can see, is that Christian truths offer a promise of positive transformation both moral and spiritual. Atheist truth strips away beliefs and values without replacing them with anything. A person is left more empty and without guidance after accepting atheism. Of course this is all subjective. I'm sure there are plenty of happy little atheists that would dispute my generalization.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 2:52 PM  

"And I would suggest that it is very hard to argue that honesty is not preferable to falsehood (for if it is not, then there is no point arguing about it, since no one is then obliged to argue honestly) or that suffering in general is not to be avoided and mitigated rather than embraced and aggravated, where (and this is the crucial Christian caveat) a licit means exist to do the former."

My argument is that actually this is wrong. A Christian does not want to inflict suffering on a person that is the result of their own sin, but if they are made the means through which suffering is inflicted on a person that brings forth repentance, then they would rejoice.

My belief is that the 'licit' part is far too restrictive... the animal instinct within us to avoid suffering has to be mastered and the only way to master it is through suffering.

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 2:53 PM  

In general Christians do not consider suffering bad, though suffering is an evil.


This is a huge criticism that atheists have against, for say, Mother Theresa, who placed an almost romantic spiritualism aspect to corporal suffering of the terminally or very ill.

"Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus. (A) sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you."

This rubs atheists a long way, because it implies that suffering is a natural good, and serves a noble purpose (preparing for Jesus).

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 2:54 PM  

Furthermore, honesty can be overvalued; to conceal something can be a virtue and to reveal it improperly can be a vice: "Do not throw your pearls before swine." The Truth is of utmost importance, but the Atheist idea of honesty - which is open truth-telling as opposed to straightfoward behavior - is not clearly a virtue at all.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 2:54 PM  

@ Josh

Progressivism is born of the Social Gospel. As the Protestants eventually evolved into a materialist religion (denying the supernatural in the sacraments, etc) and removed the only spiritual link (a proper Church and Her agents) between God and man, Protestantism ironically became, through the double-bind of the Protestant Work Ethic, a "workings"-based type of magical thinking - the re-emergence of alchemy coincidental to the rise of Protestanism is no accident. All that New Atheists do is take that "religion" another step, and remove the need for a supernatural god from their own alchemical quest.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 2:56 PM  

1. A Christian would not want to cause another person to suffer
2. A Christian would never intentionally avoid suffering


On an initial inspection, I tend to dispute #2. The end or mitigation of suffering can be mercy, and is it profitable to us to reject mercy, who have accepted it in its eternal form?

Not all suffering strengthens.

Anonymous robwbright August 08, 2013 2:57 PM  

"Because they hate God." - Josh

Exactly. Most atheists talk about God more than Christians do.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 2:58 PM  

All that New Atheists do is take that "religion" another step, and remove the need for a supernatural god from their own alchemical quest.

Called it. I'm so awesome.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 2:58 PM  

" But most atheists at least start out with two sincere principles that are not in themselves bad things: 1) Honesty and truth are preferable to delusion and falsehood; and 2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found. Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level."

The only proper response to "#2" is a Manhattan Project to eradicate all forms of life in the universe.

Blogger Giraffe August 08, 2013 3:00 PM  

You can't talk about evil and atheism. I am atheist, and there is no such thing as evil.

You continue to amaze, dh. I don't remember another atheist that would admit that.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:00 PM  

The only proper response to "#2" is a Manhattan Project to eradicate all forms of life in the universe.

Can I offer you a Pamprin? I'm not using them right now.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:01 PM  

@dh

Her spirituality was not romantic, it was actually just classical. Whether or not a person realizes this depends on 1. how much classical Christian literature they've read and 2. if they believe these people they read actually represented real Christian thought.

For instance, the prayer of a sick person in our prayer book is not really a prayer for healing, though that is part of it - it is a prayer that the sickness may be the means of our true repentance.

People associate this spirituality wrongly with a time 'when diseases couldn't be cured' - there actually were people who recovered from diseases under the direction of doctors in every century though how much what the doctor did helped and how much hindered their healing we can't be entirely sure. Given that disease will probably always exist that is incurable, this seems to be the only worthwhile general principle on the matter - to consider sickness (for one's self) to be something to be endured and not something to be avoided once one is afflicted.

That M. Theresa gave this advice to terminal sufferers actually strikes me as astoundingly practical and not at all romantic; to use the pain as a means of repentance and purification? That seems like the only thing it would be good for at that point.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:06 PM  

Okay, okay, okay. Now that we've got us a nice diverse group, riddle me this, Christians:

Is it sin to ask God to let one avoid suffering?

Be careful how you answer.

Anonymous robwbright August 08, 2013 3:06 PM  

"2. A Christian would never intentionally avoid suffering"

False. Unless you consider the Apostle Paul to be something other than a Christian. On two different occasions, Paul successfully argued that his status as a Roman Citizen should prevent or have prevented his personal suffering.

Acts 22:22ff and Acts 16:35ff

I note that Paul's actions likely resulted in another person suffering - i.e the person who punished him without trial and conviction.

Paul instructed us, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 3:07 PM  

That M. Theresa gave this advice to terminal sufferers actually strikes me as astoundingly practical and not at all romantic; to use the pain as a means of repentance and purification? That seems like the only thing it would be good for at that point.

I read it as "pain = kiss from Jesus". It sounds to an un-Christian ear as just plain romanticizing pain - the same way you see athletes crowing "bring the pain" or whatever.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:08 PM  

Sigyn -

The Great Schism cut the lungs from the Church. Protestantism cut off the head. Atheism simply cuts out the heart.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 3:08 PM  

"The sort of suffering that appears to be unearned -- like a person getting cancer for no apparent reason or a couple losing a child to a malady that was no fault of her own -- still serves a purpose. My husband and I had a year of great suffering last year, in which both of those things happened to us and more, but we are doing better than ever. The suffering brought us closer to God, closer to each other, and has made us more compassionate about the suffering of others. How can that possibly be considered a bad thing?"

Well, first off, let me say for starters how sorry I am that you had to go through that, and thank God that He helped you through it as best as possible. And again, I should note that I myself agree with your own perspective.

That said, I think the practical atheist's answer to your question would not be that the value you found in your experience is a bad thing in itself, but simply that he could not see it as valuable *enough* to justify enduring the suffering that provided it in the first place, and that a faith that merely helps to *deal* with suffering is inferior to a philosophy aimed at *preventing* suffering. (Which in turn is another link to how atheism is a philosophy of the wealthy and powerful, who find it much easier to believe in the preventability of suffering than the poor and powerless.)

Anonymous robwbright August 08, 2013 3:11 PM  

"Is it sin to ask God to let one avoid suffering?"

No, it is not. That's not a difficult question as there are numerous examples in the scriptures of righteous men doing exactly that.

It is written: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will." - Matthew 26:39

It is written: "Deliver me in your righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline your ear to me, and save me... Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man." Psalm 71: 2, 4

Psalm 59; Psalm 22:20.

Anonymous ZhukovG August 08, 2013 3:11 PM  

@Tizona

Roman Catholic here; your statement betrays an ignorance of history and a disregard for the teachings of the church. Of the five ‘Solas’:

Sola Fide
Sola Gratia
Soli Gloria Dei
Soli Christi
Sola Scriptura

Only on the last do we disagree with orthodox Protestants. Since the RCC holds that the scriptures are doctrinally without error, they are sufficient for transmission of the faith and for instruction in living in Christ.

This pointless bickering between Catholics and Protestants at a time when the whole of the Church needs to present a united front only gives aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ.

/rant off

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:11 PM  

As the Protestants eventually evolved into a materialist religion (denying the supernatural in the sacraments, etc) and removed the only spiritual link (a proper Church and Her agents) between God and man

What about those protestants who see miracles, like people being healed? Is that supernatural?

And when did Jesus talk about the need for an intermediary between God and man? Wouldn't the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make such an intermediary unnecessary?

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 3:12 PM  

"Is it sin to ask God to let one avoid suffering?"

Not at all. Jesus himself made this very request in Gethsemane.

When, however, God's answer to that prayer is (as it often is), "Not this time, sorry," it *is* a sin to say, "Then frak you, God; *my* will be done, not yours."

Blogger buzzardist August 08, 2013 3:13 PM  

But most atheists at least start out with two sincere principles that are not in themselves bad things: 1) Honesty and truth are preferable to delusion and falsehood; and 2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found. Since Christians in general agree with both of these principles, it can be difficult to argue on that level.

This is precisely the level on which I think a Christian ought to argue against an atheist. While a Christian accepts #1, #2 is antithetical to Christianity. Christians should love and help others where possible, but there is no compelling principle to alleviate all suffering wherever possible. Jesus' critics attacked him precisely in this manner, tearing into Jesus for failing to help the poor by selling a perfume that a whore instead wiped on Jesus' feet. Jesus is quite clear that we should help others, but our ultimate calling is to love and follow God, not to obsess with the material things of this world. Amend that statement to say that we should try to alleviate spiritual suffering, and, yes, perhaps Christians would agree. But all suffering? No.

And how one goes about alleviating suffering matters. Jesus, in the wilderness, could have alleviated his own physical suffering by giving into temptations. He may even have been able to alleviate the world's physical suffering by taking dominion over it (or at least this was the offer on the table, even if the end result may not have worked out that way). On the cross, too, Jesus could have alleviated his suffering, and before that he could have acted to avoid it. He didn't choose to end suffering in any of these instances.

The belief that we can end suffering through what we do on earth is the same lie that progressives buy into. It's a false utopian vision that attempts to "fix" the world through human efforts. The world is broken beyond our repair. We broke it, and we cannot fix it. It will only be repaired when God does so. Until then, suffering will always be with us.

This isn't to say we should be callous to suffering. We should recognize it. We should speak to it. We should love those experiencing it. We should help them when we can, particularly in their spiritual condition. But we will never get rid of all human suffering. It is hubris to believe we can.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:15 PM  

I read it as "pain = kiss from Jesus". It sounds to an un-Christian ear as just plain romanticizing pain - the same way you see athletes crowing "bring the pain" or whatever.

It is. It's not based in scripture, where we see Jesus healing people and taking away their pain. If pain was a kiss from Jesus, he would have kicked the cripple in the side instead of commanding him to walk.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:16 PM  

The Great Schism cut the lungs from the Church. Protestantism cut off the head. Atheism simply cuts out the heart.

Really? Protestantism rejects Christ?

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:16 PM  

The Great Schism cut the lungs from the Church.

You guys were the ones who left. Idiot.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 3:17 PM  

Well said, buzzardist.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:17 PM  

@dh

Considering that one of the more important images the apostle Paul used for the Christian was that of the athlete, yeah, I can see that.

I'm delighted that they were so offended. For some people, unintentionally offending them is a sure sign you're on the right path. (Intentionally offending them on the other hand, doesn't mean squat.)

Blogger buzzardist August 08, 2013 3:18 PM  

Sigyn,

No, it's not sin to ask to avoid suffering. Jesus did. Job certainly complained about his suffering. Neither of them sinned. God expects us to ask for relief from suffering, and sometimes he may even give that relief.

But it would be a sin to curse God for suffering. Ultimately, we will suffer, we are told. When we do, we need to accept that suffering. For the Christian, if we do accept suffering, God will use that to fashion us into stronger people.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:20 PM  

@Josh

So what about the people Jesus DIDN'T heal? I guess they weren't suffering?

Do we suppose those he healed went on to live suffering-free lives?

Did he prevent Mary and Martha from suffering on account of Lazarus' death?

Rarely if at all are the healings simply healings of the body; in all of the accounts that are given specifically (not including "and he healed the sick") there is reference to someone's repentance or spiritual healing as a result. With some of the children the spiritual healing happens with the parents.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:21 PM  

I don't know about you guys, but if I have an incapacitating headache, I'm accepting the mercy of Tylenol. There's no special virtue in not being able to think.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:21 PM  

@Josh

are you Orthodox?

We didn't change the faith; the West did.

But that wasn't the first Schism.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 August 08, 2013 3:24 PM  

One theme of the scriptures and a lot of ancient wisdom literature is how wealth can ruin a person or people; we are told by the Fathers that Sodom and Gomorrah did not fall because they decided homosexuality was a cool thing, but because of 'a surfeit of bread' - wealth and gluttony led to their other excesses.

What version of the Bible did you read?

I'm pretty sure it was the fact that the whole town tried to rape three angels, who were sojourning in their town.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:24 PM  

@ Josh

> What about those protestants who see miracles, like people being healed? Is that supernatural?

I was thinking about that as I was typing my response. My first thought is that "magical healings" are part of many belief systems. I do not know the incidence or efficacy of various magical workings in procuring healings, but I imagine, simply based on probability, that people at least believe them to be so.

Second, I find that there is a much greater propensity for Protestants to actually claim to witness things like healings, demonic deliverances, etc. than Catholics. At the same time, Catholics certainly ask for intercessions from the saint, pray novenas, etc. The massive difference, IMO, is that Catholics really don't expect it to work - they are praying for the soul. Protestants pray for the body. This may be an over-generalization, and I can only speak from experience (raised Baptist, converted Catholic.)

My sense is that the High Materialism of, say, Calvin, has been replaced in America with a much more tribal / primitive form of Christianity. So the short answer is that I find the "supernatural" to be a form of magical thinking not dissimilar from voodoo or other materialist / magical philosophies.


> And when did Jesus talk about the need for an intermediary between God and man? Wouldn't the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make such an intermediary unnecessary?

Look, I'm not going to debate the truth of Catholicism with you. If you're not familiar with the dogma on this subject, it's easy enough to find the apologetics.

But just as post-temple Hebrews had to do a lot of toe-tapping to figure out where to expiate their sins, it seems to me Protestantism has had to twist itself into knots trying to figure out how the Sacrifice isn't exactly what Jesus said it was.

Anonymous Anonagain August 08, 2013 3:24 PM  

That M. Theresa gave this advice to terminal sufferers actually strikes me as astoundingly practical and not at all romantic; to use the pain as a means of repentance and purification? That seems like the only thing it would be good for at that point.

The ever practical atheist would simply euthanize terminal sufferers. Silly notions of afterlife, suffering for a worthwhile cause, and comforting the dying with hope for eternal life through Jesus just will not do. Nihilism and utter meaninglessness in one's existence are exactly what a dying person needs to hear during the excruciating pain and last moments of his life.

Void of spirit, void of Truth, Leftists are nothing but empty shells of humanism lacking all humanity.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:26 PM  

@swift

What part of 'we are told by the Fathers' was illegible?

'we'.. 'are'.. 'told'.. 'by'.. 'the'.. 'Fathers' ?

If you can circle the problem words with red ink, I can get back to you with a revised version.

Cheers!

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:27 PM  

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2386627/The-riddle-angel-priest-Holy-man-appeared-pray-trapped-girl-rescuers-traffic-accident-told-OK-vanished.html

Check out the "worst rated" comments. Atheists at their finest.

Anonymous WaterBoy August 08, 2013 3:29 PM  

Stickwick: "The suffering brought us closer to God, closer to each other, and has made us more compassionate about the suffering of others. How can that possibly be considered a bad thing? And let me point out that there is choice involved -- we chose for this suffering to have meaning and for it to do good in our lives -- and everyone has the free will to make the same choice (or not)."

I recall you mentioning some of this before, and I don't mean to be indelicate so I apologize in advance if it comes across as such...

If God had appeared to you beforehand and given you a choice between (A) what actually happened, and (B) another outcome with less suffering...making it clear that His Will is that you make the choice and that you would not be judged whichever way you choose...would you still choose (A)?

You are spot on in how people choose to respond to events, but that doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't have preferred a different outcome entirely. In other words, an ability to turn lemons into lemonade doesn't mean one wouldn't rather have oranges in the first place.

And that's what it seemed to me that Stephen J. was getting at -- even though pain and suffering is inevitable and good can come from it, doesn't mean that people (Christians) in general won't work to alleviate it as much as possible. That's one reason why there are missions all over the world, working to alleviate suffering in addition to spreading the Word.

Anonymous civilServant August 08, 2013 3:32 PM  

You can't talk about evil and atheism. I am atheist, and there is no such thing as evil.

Would you say
1) There is no such thing as objective evil?
2) There is no such thing as subjective evil?

it implies that suffering is a natural good, and serves a noble purpose (preparing for Jesus).

For christians this (material/materialist) world is broken and the realm of satan/evil. It will be uprooted and replaced by God's world. If one is well-off in this world it is taken as a sign one is accepting of and accepted by this world. If one is not well-off in this world it is taken as a sign that one is living for the next world or as an opportunity to see and enter that next world. "We are pilgrims who seek an eternal city."

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:34 PM  

Sigyn

> Really? Protestantism rejects Christ?

If by rejecting you mean "destroying the natural way to meet Him" then the answer is of course "yes."

But the Divine Mercy most likely covers the invincible ignorance of those who think they have a Bat Phone connected directly to the ear of the God Man.

At least I hope so.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:35 PM  

@Waterboy

I think it should be clear that Christians view others suffering and themselves suffering (personally, not as a group) differently. What I mean is that Christians might do a lot to mitigate the suffering of others while seemingly in contradiction, doing nothing or far much less to avoid suffering for themselves.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:35 PM  

Second, I find that there is a much greater propensity for Protestants to actually claim to witness things like healings, demonic deliverances, etc. than Catholics.

Does it occur to you that they might actually happen for us?

At the same time, Catholics certainly ask for intercessions from the saint, pray novenas, etc.

Right. You ask dead people to do for you. We ask God. And then you wonder why you don't see results.

The massive difference, IMO, is that Catholics really don't expect it to work

O ye of little faith.

they are praying for the soul. Protestants pray for the body.

Protestants know it's not an either/or proposition.

But just as post-temple Hebrews had to do a lot of toe-tapping to figure out where to expiate their sins, it seems to me Protestantism has had to twist itself into knots trying to figure out how the Sacrifice isn't exactly what Jesus said it was.

Unlike the Catholics, who stand far away from the foot of the mountain and beg for Moses to speak to God for you.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:35 PM  

My sense is that the High Materialism of, say, Calvin, has been replaced in America with a much more tribal / primitive form of Christianity. So the short answer is that I find the "supernatural" to be a form of magical thinking not dissimilar from voodoo or other materialist / magical philosophies.

Would you consider the first century church in the book of acts to be a primitive form of christianity with voodoo magical thinking?

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:37 PM  

If by rejecting you mean "destroying the natural way to meet Him" then the answer is of course "yes."

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...

Oh, I'm sorry, should I have a man in a funny hat deliver this for me? Or am I cleared to look through the torn Veil of the Temple?

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:37 PM  

@civilservant

This is Manicheanism or Gnosticism. The 'world' of which you speak is not this material world but the 'system' of this world. John the Divine says it is "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and pride of life."

The world itself is not broken at all and is perfectly blameless in all of this, all of it doing exactly what it was commanded to without fail. Otherwise we would not have God calling it 'Good' in the Genesis.

Blogger Phoenician August 08, 2013 3:39 PM  

There is no shortage of scientific evidence that religion is, at worst, a placebo. Even if we assume that religion is entirely false, how can anyone who claims to possess any ethics, let alone superior and rationally determined ethics, possibly justify harming others by intentionally eliminating that placebo effect?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/24/christian-couple-kills-their-second-child-with-prayer/

-----
Christian Couple Kills Their Second Child… with Prayer

In 2009, Kent Schaible, the two-year-old son of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, contracted bacterial pneumonia. Kent could have been saved by doctors, but his parents didn’t give him that chance. Instead, they prayed for ten days… and, to nobody’s surprise, that didn’t help. A few doses of Tylenol could have saved Kent’s life, but his parents decided they had a better solution in mind.
-----

Dipshit.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:39 PM  

@Josh:

>> The Great Schism cut the lungs from the Church.
>You guys were the ones who left. Idiot.

Your clear inability to correctly parse my statement in light of the Catholic hope for and sorrow over the lack of Christian unity suggests to me that you should have your "idiot" card revoked.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:39 PM  

are you Orthodox?

We didn't change the faith; the West did.

But that wasn't the first Schism.


No, I'm not orthodox, but my theology is probably closest to it. I'm a nondenomenational protestant.

Anonymous WaterBoy August 08, 2013 3:40 PM  

River Cocytus: "What I mean is that Christians might do a lot to mitigate the suffering of others while seemingly in contradiction, doing nothing or far much less to avoid suffering for themselves."

If that is the case, then that positively affirms Stephen J.'s #2.

Anonymous WRI August 08, 2013 3:41 PM  

"Okay, okay, okay. Now that we've got us a nice diverse group, riddle me this, Christians:

Is it sin to ask God to let one avoid suffering?

Be careful how you answer."

According to the Bible, Jesus did just that in Matthew 26:39 and Luke 22:42 ("Take this cup from me"), which implies it is not a sin if you accept Jesus as sinless. It comes with the caveat that you be willing to submit to God's will, no matter the result.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:41 PM  

Gee, Phony, what are you griping about? It was just another Darwinian event in which the weak didn't make it. All the better for the gene pool.

You act like there's something wrong with this. Why do you hate evolutionary progress, Phony?

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:41 PM  

Sigyn:

You don't seem to know the difference between Jesus and His Father...

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:43 PM  

@Josh

Nondenomenational Protestantism is neither, by itself, closer to or further from Orthodoxy than anything else...

Since as a label it does not communicate a particular praxis, theology, or ecclesiology.

In general, as a rule, conservative Roman Catholics tend to be the closest to Orthodoxy but there are some notable exceptions.

Blogger Penrose August 08, 2013 3:44 PM  

Aristotle said that the end of our effort was happiness since it offered no other means. While it's easy for me to ignore the otherworldly evidence of religion, or the lack thereof, I am not someone who is anti-religion because I understand the significance it holds for people. While I would like there to be a loving and personal God, this is more of a desire for hope and purpose, then it is believe in the Almighty.

In Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning," he devised a new therapy called logotherapy based on his experiences in a concentration camp. While watching how people handled suffering he noticed that those most apt for survival were those least possessed of nihilism. The existentialists acknowledge this conundrum. How can there be meaning to life when all the logic points to the obvious lack of meaning? By a twist of wit they give life a personal meaning, an individualized meaning. That's to say that life has meaning the person gives it. Being social creatures bending to conformity, the safety of religion is that it provides a collective meaning to life and social acceptability. In the name of God man endures his toil, his labor, and his suffering better because it is not without purpose. He struggle, yes. He suffers but he does so for something greater than himself. Likewise, man is best when given purpose through a job, family, or religion so it's not surprise that when these are cut from him he seeks suicide, the end of rational nihilism.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 3:44 PM  

Josh -

> Would you consider the first century church in the book of acts to be a primitive form of Christianity with voodoo magical thinking?

Primitive form? Spiritually, no. Philosophically, yes. Theologically, in its infancy.

If you are attempting to compare Holler Roller Inc. in the mini-mall next to the strip club and the Subway with the Acts, methinks you misunderstand both the early days and the present ones, too.

Anonymous Catan August 08, 2013 3:45 PM  

dh, it's the same advice they give to those in chronic pain (like me).

You must accept and embrace the pain. It makes it more bearable.

What is wrong with that? Seriously, do you see any value in hating the pain you are going to have to live with anyway? Seeing it in a different light helps one to deal with it.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:45 PM  

Rarely if at all are the healings simply healings of the body; in all of the accounts that are given specifically (not including "and he healed the sick") there is reference to someone's repentance or spiritual healing as a result. With some of the children the spiritual healing happens with the parents.

I agree with this. The Greek word sozo means save, heal, and deliver. So it's not just a physical or spiritual healing.

Blogger wrf3 August 08, 2013 3:46 PM  

swiftfoxmark2 asked: What version of the Bible did you read?

Ezekiel 16:49-50.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 3:46 PM  

@Waterboy

If suffering is to be reduced in general, than it applies in general, not just to others. Take for instance sin: Sin is bad, but Christians do not merely wish to help others avoid sin, but wish to avoid sin themselves. Suffering, not the same at all. #2 is not affirmed...

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 3:50 PM  

If you are attempting to compare Holler Roller Inc. in the mini-mall next to the strip club and the Subway with the Acts, methinks you misunderstand both the early days and the present ones, too.

You are the one calling the supernatural voodoo. Were Peter and Paul engaging in voodoo?

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 3:50 PM  

You don't seem to know the difference between Jesus and His Father...

So I'm allowed to talk directly to God the Father, but if I want to talk to Jesus, my intercessor TO God the Father, I need a man with a funny hat to deliver it for me.

Okayyyyy.

> Would you consider the first century church in the book of acts to be a primitive form of Christianity with voodoo magical thinking?

Primitive form? Spiritually, no. Philosophically, yes. Theologically, in its infancy.


Well, I guess you're so much better than your ancestors. You're wiser and smarter, so what THEY said isn't as relevant or true as more recent stuff.

I've heard this somewhere before.

Anonymous bw August 08, 2013 3:50 PM  

Trying to kick out the crutch is only half of the problem, the other half after the crutch is kicked (or as they kick it) they don't say, "Go your own way", but rather "You must live how I say". - JartStar

Indeed. Ironic, is it not, that they give up One True authority for .... wait for it .... their own deeply fallible, failing, excuse making, inept, foolish one - their own self-justifying ego.
They consider themselves as gods. It is all a very simple pattern. Your will must bend, not to the True Authority, but to them. Imagine that.

Anonymous Anonagain August 08, 2013 3:50 PM  

Whereas those silly Christians believe that suffering can bring us closer to God, Atheists believe they must make OTHERS suffer to bring society closer to THEIR vision of a humanistic heaven. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

No silly romantic notions here, just brutality and forced conformity.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 3:53 PM  

"Christian Couple Kills Their Second Child… with Prayer"

For me, this is precisely the sort of thing I think of when I consider Jesus's words to the Devil, during the 40 days in the desert: "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

Or, more flippantly, of the old joke about the disaster victim who refuses rescue three times in a row because he is sure the Lord will save him, and upon drowning goes before the Throne and asks in disbelief, "Lord, why didn't you save me?" To which the Lord raises His eyebrow and says, "Didn't you see the two boats and the helicopter I sent your way?"

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 August 08, 2013 4:00 PM  

Ezekiel 16:49-50

Interesting. I suppose, though, that the wealth and comfort caused them to fall into sin so much easier.

Same pattern is seen today in this country and many other wealthy nations, especially at the top. The Hellfire Club is one example of this.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:07 PM  

>Well, I guess you're so much better than your ancestors. You're wiser and smarter, so what THEY said isn't as relevant or true as more recent stuff.

>I've heard this somewhere before.

The irony... It literally burns.

Anonymous Hyperphrenius August 08, 2013 4:08 PM  

Stephen J. August 08, 2013 1:52 PM

2) Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found.


No it isn't. Suffering is a good and necessary part of this fallen world. Jesus said, "take up your cross, and follow me." A cross is an implement of torture and death. Christians are to embrace its burden, and its pain.

The people I know whose suffering has been mitigated as much as possible are all miserable. They rage and the slightest inconvenience, being enslaved by their comforts.

The only men I know who I can say have any sense of understanding of the world are the ones who have suffered greatly. Whether that suffering comes from physical excruciations, or the pain of loss, or mental turmoil, or the diligence of self-denial. The false cocoon most liberals live in, kept padded from the cruel truth of the world, has left them weak willed and weak minded.

Suffering is like the weights of the soul, that when lifted first brings agony and destruction, yet after brings new strength. By battling through pain, the will becomes tempered, the mind like steel. By fighting and rising above the pain, we become immune to it, and greater than yesterday. In suffering we are united to Christ on the cross. In suffering is a sinner made into a saint. And when the pain that like a stallion trampled us is conquered, we can mount it, and seize its mane, and steer it to any end of the horizon we desire.

Suffering transforms into power.

I have suffered great abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to care for me. Yet my only regrets are my sins. I now find that the torments that once so greatly mortified me no longer do, but have transformed me, and their fire I carry with me, that immolates my attachment to this world.

Yet it's true that some suffering is too great for a man to reap benefit from. It crushes him, rather than tempers. This should be alleviated, true. And there are some who thrash wallow in their misery rather than rise through their pain, never growing from it. Some do this by choice, others because they know no other way. The ones who choose that fate can have it; the ones who do not know, we must show the way of the cross, and the God to whom it leads.

Anonymous WaterBoy August 08, 2013 4:10 PM  

River Cocytus: "If suffering is to be reduced in general, than it applies in general, not just to others."

Incorrect -- that would be "universally" (applies to all), rather than "generally" (definition: a : in disregard of specific instances and with regard to an overall picture).

That a given Christian would want to alleviate suffering wherever possible, with the exception of themself, means they wish to alleviate it in general.

If you could make the case that Christians typically only want to alleviate suffering in people whom they know, for example, then you would have a case for specificity, rather than generality. However, the number of Christians who donate money, goods, time, etc., for charitable works going to people around the world whom they do not even know, would tend to belie that case.

River Cocytus: "#2 is not affirmed...""

I will restate my conclusion: Part of #2 is affirmed.

This is what Stephen J. said in #2:

"Suffering is an evil that must be alleviated or mitigated as much as possible wherever found."

I think the inclusion of the categorization of suffering as "evil" is incorrect, so that is not affirmed. But the rest is, as explained above.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:13 PM  

@Waterboy

Fair enough.

Though, see Hyperphrenius' comment. It's not for the uninitiated.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:14 PM  

Josh:

>You are the one calling the supernatural voodoo. Were Peter >and Paul engaging in voodoo?

You've either purposefully misrepresented what I said or haven't understood it. I'll take responsibility for the latter and restate:

American Protestantism, especially as practiced by the Holy Roller variety (I include mega-churches and Pentacostals in the list) is a primitivised form of what I am calling High Materialist Protestantism of yore. Thinking that God will grant material well being or success because of either faith, prayer, or works is a form of magical thinking. Christianity was never a religion of material rewards. This is what I call voodoo. And it is rampant.

The early Church (which of course included things like the celebration of the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the papacy) was spiritually as advanced as the Church as a whole (meaning the actual body of believers) will ever be. How could it not be, when it was so close to the source, as well as so small? In all other categories, without putting an enormous amount of thought into it, I do not believe it was as advanced as it is now.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:17 PM  

The irony... It literally burns.

Doesn't it? It seems so sad to me that a group of people come along, take the Bible, and say, "Well, none of this is as relevant as the opinion of the guy we just elected head of our club. Hey, let's write some essays, make up some rituals, and everyone wear purple this Sunday!"

I think Jesus said something about people who make God's stated will of none effect with their traditions, but I'm just a layperson so what do I know?

Anonymous Porky August 08, 2013 4:19 PM  

I really love the "essential catholic doctrine" wherein you absolutely MUST believe that Mary stayed a virgin for the rest of her life or you are not a catholic and will not be permitted to pull numbers for monday night bingo.

Catholics are kooky!

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:20 PM  

Thinking that God will grant material well being or success because of either faith, prayer, or works is a form of magical thinking.

So I guess we shouldn't be praying for our daily bread or giving thanks for it.

But it's okay to ask dead people to help me find my keys!

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:21 PM  

Sigyn:

You do realize that the Church predates the bible?

Also, am I right to assume you are a woman? I can't imagine a man being so spunky about his own snark and ignorance.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:21 PM  

I really love the "essential catholic doctrine" wherein you absolutely MUST believe that Mary stayed a virgin for the rest of her life or you are not a catholic and will not be permitted to pull numbers for monday night bingo.

I personally prefer the part where it says SHE was born of a virgin.

Anonymous VD August 08, 2013 4:22 PM  

Christian Couple Kills Their Second Child… with Prayer

And here I thought prayer couldn't possibly accomplish anything!

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:23 PM  

@Tizona

"and the papacy"

Ridiculous. Not even the Orthodox would argue there existed a single patriarch until centuries later. We acknowledge that at the beginning there was no distinction between overseers (Bishops) and elders (Presbetyrs)

Seems like some of the Roman fetish for inventing history (Donation of Constantine ring a bell?) has come up. Rome has much to recommend itself that doesn't involve these weird innovations. Daily Masses for one.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:23 PM  

Sigyn:

So all the children who starved to death in Christian Ethiopia, and all the Christians who prayer for an end to their suffering, didn't pray hard enough I guess?

Christ died on a cross. The Apostles were flayed alive, crucified, and stoned. They must not have prayed hard enough, either.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:25 PM  

You do realize that the Church predates the bible?

I realize the Bible predates Catholic fanfiction, too.

I can't imagine a man being so spunky about his own snark and ignorance.

I like it when people assume that disagreement with them is due to ignorance.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:25 PM  

@ River Cocktopus

Peter was the first pope. Deal with it.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:27 PM  

@Sig/@porky

This is not a Roman Catholic thing (The Ever-Virginity of Mary) but common Christian tradition. Nearly all of the major Protestant founders (Calvin, Luther) believed it and some said you had to believe it if you wished to consider yourself a Christian.

Her 'immaculate conception' is a Roman invention though.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:27 PM  

So all the children who starved to death in Christian Ethiopia, and all the Christians who prayer for an end to their suffering, didn't pray hard enough I guess?

Christ died on a cross. The Apostles were flayed alive, crucified, and stoned. They must not have prayed hard enough, either.


Now who's guilty of magical thinking? Sometimes the answer is "no". Even that primitive vodouisant Paul knew that.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:29 PM  

Nearly all of the major Protestant founders (Calvin, Luther) believed it and some said you had to believe it if you wished to consider yourself a Christian.

Nobody's perfect (except God, of course).

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:30 PM  

@Tizona

Showing Barlaam's courtesy are we?

Or do you not know a reference to one of Rome's great poets?

'pope' is just a translation of 'papa' which just means 'father'. It is another common term similar and interchangeable with 'patriarch'. Did you know there is a Pope of the Coptic Christians?

If you wish your faith to be taken seriously, start taking the faith of those part of a tradition as old if not older than yours, seriously.

Thanks.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:31 PM  

@ Whatshername

Actually, much "Catholic fan-fiction," i.e., the works of the Fathers, predates the codified bible by centuries. And the great bulk (like, you know, the works of that famous author of Catholic Twilight book the Summa) predate the Protestant bile-ble by nearly 300 years.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:32 PM  

@sig

the idea that it is a Roman doctrine is incorrect. It is simply a Christian doctrine that has fallen out of favor, you know, like the importance of daily communion, or, as I hear, the Trinity.

Anonymous TED August 08, 2013 4:32 PM  

Funny how Catholics despise non-Catholic followers of Jesus Chris more than they do atheists...

Explains that whole Trail of Blood thing...

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 4:33 PM  

"Suffering is a good and necessary part of this fallen world. Jesus said, 'take up your cross, and follow me.'"

Jesus also said, "Feed my sheep," to Peter no less than three times; said that the Samaritan who took care of the robber's victim was more a neighbour than the victim's fellows who ignored him; and nearly every miracle He ever worked was a miracle of healing, sustenance, relief and/or restoration. And He also made the clear point, "With what measure ye judge shall ye be judged," implying that those who feel most comfortable inflicting or permitting others' suffering "for their own good" are likeliest to be the ones so treated themselves.

As others have noted above, the idea that suffering is, as an aspect of existence, ineradicable and necessary is not incompatible with the Christian requirement to do what can be (licitly or practically) done to mitigate suffering on a case-by-case basis. One of the post-Enlightenment philosophical tendencies I consider responsible for many weaknesses of modern atheism is the dislike of this kind of paradox.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:33 PM  

Sigyn:

"Now who's guilty of magical thinking? Sometimes the answer is "no". Even that primitive vodouisant Paul knew that."

You can't even recognize the obvious fruits of your theology. Silly.

Anonymous CS Looney August 08, 2013 4:34 PM  

Hey... Catholic talking points!

Even more boring than atheist talking points, actually....

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 4:34 PM  

No silly romantic notions here, just brutality and forced conformity.

Was this sarcastic? The atheist ethic would not typically be consider romantic.

What is wrong with that? Seriously, do you see any value in hating the pain you are going to have to live with anyway? Seeing it in a different light helps one to deal with it.

Nothing wrong with it. There is a difference though between embracing inevitable pain with a sort of natural zest - and embracing avoidable pain because you want to be brought closer to God. There is a further difference between all that and embracing pain on behalf of someone else so that they can become closer to God. That's the primary complaint with the Christian focus on pain and its relationship to spiritual well-being.

Anonymous damntull August 08, 2013 4:34 PM  

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it wouldn't be a Vox Day religious post without the usual half-baked anti-Catholic snarkery. Sigyn's comments are particularly bad.

Anonymous damntull August 08, 2013 4:36 PM  

Sigyn - on what basis do you deny the immaculate conception of Mary?

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:37 PM  

@TED

Oh yeah. We know the sacking of Constantinople wasn't accidental.

@Steve J

I think it's partly due to Kant and the thought that comes from him, where morals are only morals if they can be universally applied. He is partly responsible for the loss of a hierarchy of value, which holds for instance the endurance and overcoming of evil as of greater worth than the absence of evil.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:38 PM  

@ Whoever

>Funny how Catholics despise non-Catholic followers of Jesus Chris more than they do atheists...

I actually love followers of Jesus Chris. I also enjoy eating at Ruth's Chris.

As for the self-proclaimed followers of *Jesus Christ* - if pointing out the defects others thinking amounts to hatred, then there are *no greater practitioners of hatred than Christian missionaries.*

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:38 PM  

And the great bulk (like, you know, the works of that famous author of Catholic Twilight book the Summa) predate the Protestant bile-ble by nearly 300 years.

*bursts out laughing*

Dude. You just called the Old and New Testaments "bile". That's all the "Protestant Bible" is.

Congratulations on blaspheming the Holy Ghost. I hope your dead friends can help you get out of that one.

Anonymous WaterBoy August 08, 2013 4:40 PM  

River Cocytus: "Though, see Hyperphrenius' comment."

Very well...

Hyperphrenius: "Suffering is a good and necessary part of this fallen world."

Hence my clarification to say the part about "evil" was wrong.

Hyperphrenius: "Yet it's true that some suffering is too great for a man to reap benefit from. It crushes him, rather than tempers. This should be alleviated, true."

Agreement for the need for alleviation.

The only real point of contention is in the scale of the suffering; what is merely tempering to one may fit the "too great" definition for another.

Blogger Lawrence August 08, 2013 4:41 PM  

@Tizona

God is above human suffering, because He is above humanity. That isn't to say God doesn't care about suffering -- it seems to me that He gave us some effective hints on how to avoid it (see: Ten Commandments). What it means is that your sufferings, as an individual, may be a net benefit in the cosmic order of things. Christ suffered on the cross and as a result of that, 2000 years worth of humans received a message. And that was his own son. So what makes you think that you, as an individual are somehow immune to suffering? I sympathize with Christians suffering in various parts of the world, but many of them understand what you do not: this is a Fallen world, and we made it so.

God let us make our own bed... and we sleep in it. That is not His fault.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:44 PM  

Hmm, as I would recall, it was at the fourth century that the canon was finalized, but it lacked Revelation, which was only canonized later. This accounts for the lack of Revelation readings in Epistle readings in the lectionaries.

However, in terms of deutero-canon books, there is a great deal of variation on what is accepted, even at that time. For instance, the Ethiopians accept The Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch, while the Chalcedoneans consider those apocryphal. We do accept all of the Maccabees books (I-III) as well as Wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom of Solomon is clearly dropped out of error by Protestants because it is in ancient lectionaries for Old Testament readings for feasts, and thus was widely regarded as being as authoritative as books like Proverbs and the prophetic books.

The book of Enoch however, is referenced by Jude, clearly revealing that it was extant at the time. The Church of the East's problem with it, I think, is that because Enoch is pre-flood, there is little way for his writings to have come to us. The line about the argument over the body of Moses (accepted by Jude as fact) is from Enoch.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:44 PM  

River:

I don't know of Barlaam's courtesy, but I am happy to act as Balaam's ass.

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 4:45 PM  

1) There is no such thing as objective evil?
2) There is no such thing as subjective evil?


1. Right. No such thing. It's all built on sand.

2. There is, it's called "bad". Like, your dog pees on the rug. It's not a question of evil, it's just the dog being "bad". It's only bad because you don't want pee on your rug. It's not bad for any objective reason that the universe cares about.

Anonymous Stickwick August 08, 2013 4:46 PM  

Stephen J.: That said, I think the practical atheist's answer to your question would not be that the value you found in your experience is a bad thing in itself, but simply that he could not see it as valuable *enough* to justify enduring the suffering that provided it in the first place, and that a faith that merely helps to *deal* with suffering is inferior to a philosophy aimed at *preventing* suffering.

This is one of the reasons Christianity is superior to humanism, especially with regard to principle #1. There is no evidence whatsoever that suffering is preventable. If you accept certain scientific laws, then you have to accept that it's impossible to eliminate suffering. Suffering can be mitigated and it can be reduced, but it is nevertheless a fact of life. Far better to have a philosophy of life that helps one deal with it than one that is based on the fantasy that it can be prevented. And, thank you, by the way, for your kind words.

WaterBoy: If God had appeared to you beforehand and given you a choice between (A) what actually happened, and (B) another outcome with less suffering...making it clear that His Will is that you make the choice and that you would not be judged whichever way you choose...would you still choose (A)?

I know this is a sincere question, so I do not mean to offend you, but it's silly and unanswerable. How could God offer to deny free agency as well as natural consequences? If you asked me if I would accept God's offer to violate the laws of physics and be able to fly around by flapping my arms, I would find it just as unanswerable. Sure, I think it would be neat to be able to fly like that, but ultimately it's meaningless to think about, because that's not the world we live in.

The fact is, we live in a world in which suffering is unavoidable, because it's a consequence of free will and the laws of the natural world. My husband and I could have avoided the pain of losing our child by not getting pregnant in the first place -- but then we'd have to accept the suffering that goes along with never having children. And would we be happier as less-compassionate people who are not as close to God or to each other? With respect to my cancer, there was no apparent cause, but the outcome was that I have incontrovertible proof that my husband loves me. Would I be better off not knowing that? That same year, my husband also nearly died of meningoencephalitis a few months before we lost our daughter, and that was preventable. If he hadn't gone on a fishing trip to a heavily-wooded part of the world and gotten infected with a tick-borne virus, he would never have gotten sick -- but the alternative is to do what, never leave one's immediate surroundings? That involves suffering, too. And would we be happier without having witnessed the magnificent way in which my husband endured this illness and then rallied and overcame the neurological consequences? And throughout all of these things, the compassion and kindness we received from so many people ... well, I would never have known there is so much kindness in this world without those experiences. What's the alternative, to never really know that?

To ask me if I would avoid the pain of those experiences if I could have known the outcome ahead of time is equivalent to asking me if I would like to live in an unnatural world free of consequences. It's a fantasy question that doesn't pertain to reality. The fact is, we live in a world in which suffering is part of the framework. We humans are far too limited in our perception and too hamstrung by our irrational emotions to fully understand the consequences of suffering, and so we're not qualified to make decisions with absolute foreknowledge. All we know is that suffering is unavoidable. The only real question is, what to do with it.

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 4:47 PM  

Sigyn:

>*bursts out laughing*

>Dude. You just called the Old and New Testaments "bile". That's all the "Protestant Bible" is.

>Congratulations on blaspheming the Holy Ghost. I hope your dead friends can help you get out of that one.

Are you seriously unaware that the Protestant and Catholic bibles differ in more ways than their included books? Are you seriously unaware of the power of *translation?*

I've downgraded you from woman to tween.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:48 PM  

You can't even recognize the obvious fruits of your theology. Silly.

You can't even recognize the Bible.

Sigyn - on what basis do you deny the immaculate conception of Mary?

1. If this were so, I think Luke would have mentioned it. He was very interested in this kind of thing.
2. In fact, none of the witnesses mentioned it.
3. It doesn't show up in the prophecies, either.

Blogger JartStar August 08, 2013 4:49 PM  

There is a further difference between all that and embracing pain on behalf of someone else so that they can become closer to God. That's the primary complaint with the Christian focus on pain and its relationship to spiritual well-being.

Isn't the heart of the complaint here the problem of evil itself?

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:50 PM  

@dh

Oddly, I would agree with #1 due to the fact that at least the Orthodox consider evil to have no essence, or independent being. Evil exists only as a negation or deprivation of existing things, which are by nature, good.

The sense is that evil is the result only of subjects and never of objects - a gun cannot be evil, but a gun can be used by a person for evil.

So maybe its an evasion on my part, but I would say all evil is by definition subjective; it is nothing more than the departing from the will and communion of God. This is on the whole a subjective definition, though the Subject is quite... universal, which changes the character of the distinction.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:53 PM  

@JartStar

According to some, the root of Atheism is a hatred of God which often is caused by the presence of evil. Theodicy seems to rise and ebb with the presence or absence of public Atheism, so I think there is something to that. The only problem with it as a universal explanation is that there are some that just don't 'get' or 'perceive' the spiritual; these may be Atheists merely because of an inborn defect. However, these do not tend to be very preachy about their Atheism.

Anonymous dh August 08, 2013 4:53 PM  

Isn't the heart of the complaint here the problem of evil itself?

How so? I can't say I follow.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 4:53 PM  

"The only real point of contention is in the scale of the suffering; what is merely tempering to one may fit the 'too great' definition for another."

Which is one of the reasons why the Problem of Pain continues to be one of Christianity's biggest challenges. Most people are willing to accept the idea that some kinds or degrees of suffering, in certain times and places, are purposeful, valuable and appropriate, but almost everybody has experienced or witnessed kinds and degrees of suffering that do not seem to fit any possible conception of purpose, value or appropriateness. And so it becomes about the limits of our perception and our imagination in the face of pain, rather than about what degrees of suffering are compatible with justice and meaning and which are not.

In a screenplay draft I'd written a while ago, one character said to another, "Pain is universal. Why assume from your own pain that the universe is meaningless?" To which the other replied, "Why assume from your own *lack* of pain that the universe has meaning?"

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 4:55 PM  

Are you seriously unaware of the power of *translation?*

Of course I am aware. That's why I'm one of the few Christians you'll meet on the Internet who bothers to check the Greek when she's dealing with a point of doctrine. That's why I'm not married to any one translation, and I'm surely not married to the doctrines of men who would rather I didn't check their work.

I have zeal for the will of the Lord, and I reject anything that presumes to take its place, like certain men have presumed to take the place of Christ.

If I, a woman, have this zeal and you do not, then the shame is on you, as the shame was on Barak for refusing God's call and insisting Deborah go with him.

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 4:56 PM  

@Sigyn

Okay, okay, okay. Now that we've got us a nice diverse group, riddle me this, Christians:

Is it sin to ask God to let one avoid suffering?

Be careful how you answer.


Matt 26:39

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."

(I'm still going through the comments)

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 4:56 PM  

@Steve

Then there is St. Silouan the Athonite:

"Keep your mind in hell and despair not."

Or, as one I knew put it,

"You say (to Muslims) that I will go to hell for believing in Jesus. But even if I am in hell, if I am there with Jesus, it will be Paradise."

One good antidote to the problem of pain is reading hagiographies often; the sufferings of the Martyrs were absurd and horrifying. But they went through them with courage and sometimes with a sense of humor.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 4:58 PM  

The immaculate conception is relatively new doctrine.

Blogger JartStar August 08, 2013 5:00 PM  

How so? I can't say I follow.

Why would God allow anyone to suffer any evil at all? Then we are right back to questioning the omnis and/or His presence.

Anonymous Sigyn August 08, 2013 5:00 PM  

Now I've said my piece and I'm going to wander away for a bit. I'm starting to feel an unfortunate bit of pride, and I need to go pray for a refill on humility. This is the curse of the flesh.

Don't start any wars, fellas.

God is good.

Anonymous damntull August 08, 2013 5:02 PM  

Sigyn-
Not one of those three reasons are even remotely good grounds for doubting the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Think about it - how would any of the witnesses know if Mary was born without the stain of original sin? How would Mary even know? And you have no good grounds for thinking Luke would have mentioned it - none at all. Come on, you're smarter than this.

Anonymous Garrett August 08, 2013 5:04 PM  

I pretty much have to agree with Sigyn on most everything.

One thing I have always wondered about is from where Catholics receive authority to pray to Mary or the Saints instead of directly to Jesus in light of 1 Timothy 2:5?

Anonymous Tizona August 08, 2013 5:05 PM  

Sigyn:

Do you read ancient Greek?

Anonymous Krul August 08, 2013 5:05 PM  

Re: damntull,

Why do you accept the doctrine of the immaculate conception?

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 5:15 PM  

Garrett,

This section of the Catholic Catechism may be a start on explaining why Catholics pray for the intercession of the Saints, as well as to God directly:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p5.htm#II

Anonymous WaterBoy August 08, 2013 5:15 PM  

Stickwick: "I know this is a sincere question, so I do not mean to offend you, but it's silly and unanswerable."

No offense taken, it was merely a thought exercise. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 5:16 PM  

Why do you accept the doctrine of the immaculate conception?

Pope Pius said so!

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:17 PM  

Most Atheists see the crutch as Laetrile instead of a placebo. If you are in pain a placebo might work but if you are dying of cancer (long screed about allopathic medicine's faults aside) it matters a lot more. Worse, they look at it as in infection (ESR http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3030 might be an example).

A detachment from reality (and we talk about that a lot here) can be benign or malignant. If the voices in your head lead you to do things that actually help the poor that don't hurt others, good. If they tell you to take out a knife and kill them, not so much.

Having been sold a lie about religion causing a lot of evils, they always worry that someone who has faith in Christ will end up burning witches or as a Torquemada. The threat someone irrational will do evil is real, but that applies across the board - and the threat of someone saying they are doing good is worse, but Mao and Stalin were intending only good as well.

But to get back to the crutch, they think they can see that you are limping because you have a broken leg that is healing wrong, and if you are allowed to keep the crutch it will heal crooked, but if they take away that crutch, you will seek proper treatment. That is the "good intent" of atheists. They are like the N.I.C.E. in That Hideous Strength.

"Don't do a small evil even to address a larger evil" is from the Tao and Christianity and even Judaism and Islam. They don't admit of a "utilitarian" ethic. Atheism - including Sam Harris - is entirely utilitarian. I mentioned Judaism and Islam - The former would or should try to convince me not to eat a cheeseburger, both would tell me to avoid pork. How far they would go would depend on how much they expected me to suffer in the future for doing so.

(Aargh, another long but utterly interesting post)

Blogger JCclimber August 08, 2013 5:19 PM  

Oh Sigyn,
remember what has been said many times before about when someone gets very emotional and combative in their arguments, it is a sign that their beliefs are being threatened and deep down they know they are not built on a true foundation?

I think you have touched a nerve with her.

The fact that the Bible must be explained by a priest rather than being read at home by yourself shows that they know their doctrines are going to require some fancy dance moves to square the differences in doctrine and scripture.

Blogger James Dixon August 08, 2013 5:21 PM  

> No, but if you are starting from them as axioms, you do not need to, rhetorically: an axiom is by definition the premise that underlies all methodologies of proof and cannot itself be "proven", only accepted, stipulated to, or rejected.

Of course. But no one else has to accept them. And the atheist has no answer when they don't.

> And I would suggest that it is very hard to argue that honesty is not preferable to falsehood (for if it is not, then there is no point arguing about it, since no one is then obliged to argue honestly)...

You would? Arguing outside a Christian context, I'd say the simple case where it greatly benefits one person to lie and doesn't significantly harm anyone else is an obvious example. And that completely ignores the various levels of honesty (just because I am not lying to you doesn't mean I'm being completely honest). And the phrase "white lie" exists for a reason. And all of these cases presuppose that the worth of others is assumed, which not all atheists have to accept.

I'm not at all sure it's as an easy a case to make as you're proposing.

> ...or that suffering in general is not to be avoided and mitigated rather than embraced and aggravated, where (and this is the crucial Christian caveat) a licit means exist to do the former.

From an atheist perspective, I can't see that it can honestly be argued either way. Suffering is what it is, and aspect of reality. Why should the atheist care either way? Now, being human, he may have emotional reasons based on empathy, but those are outside any rational framework he can provide.

> (For sake of clarity I should further note here that I am not arguing the atheist case myself; I am merely attempting to explain -- as much to myself out loud as anyone else -- why some atheists may not see it as a bad thing to proselytize unbelief to believers.)

Believe it or not, I understood that, and I'm also merely playing devil's advocate in that regard.

> This pointless bickering between Catholics and Protestants at a time when the whole of the Church needs to present a united front only gives aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ.

Thank you, ZhukovG.

Anonymous Garrett August 08, 2013 5:21 PM  

Still confused on it I suppose. Is there some scripture that can provide reasoning for going beyond the authority of 1 Timothy 2:5.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 5:25 PM  

Team Catholic is generally doing a worse job than Team Calvin. At least Team Calvin can actually point to scripture for reference.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 5:25 PM  

@tz

Well said.

@Josh

The immaculate conception is entailed by the belief that human nature is itself corrupt and sinful (which some do believe) - if this was so, Christ would have inherited this 'sin nature' from Mary through her parents. This however, would violate the truth, which is that Christ was without sin or stain of any kind.

The Orthodox and some others do not believe in 'sin nature' - i.e. they don't believe that the nature of man was corrupted or became inherently sinful, but that men passed down the tendency to sin. Thus to not pass down the tendency to sin would require parents to be righteous, which Joachim and Anna and by extension, Mary, were. The corruptibility of the human nature still was present, but Mary did not sin, therefore she did not pass on to Christ any of that curse.

This is one reason why we say that the whole purpose of Israel was to give birth to the Theotokos - one who actually *could* bear God in the flesh.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 5:29 PM  

Also I think, there is a belief per Augustine (which is not present in the East) that sex itself is what passes down the sin nature. To avoid this you'd need to reproduce without having sex. Thus 'immaculate conception'.

A lot of the weirdness Westerners have vis a vis sex is probably entailed in their following of Augustine's overstep on this point (and a few others.)

Anonymous tornado August 08, 2013 5:29 PM  

Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses in a sewer...the birthplace of Protestantism! There is a poetic ring to it! lol!

The Protestant bible is very edited...7 books taken out...

There are thousands upon thousands of protestant denominations because of this chaos...

Martin Luther has not shown a supernatural sign that God approved of what he was doing...what he did was far worst than what many corrupt clergy could ever accomplish...he was a drunkard that had daddy issues and claimed to have farting contests with Satan...

To change subjects here, Christianity is the greatest opponent of evil and suffering in the world...dont bother why people suffer...it cant ever be fully understood (the limits of the human mind) but the faithful must endure it with joy in his heart. This is a fallen world after all. People forget there is knowledge only suffering can teach. Look at the Martyrs as a lesson.



Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:30 PM  

Christianity says suffering HAS MEANING. It can be redemptive - if united with the cross of Christ. Paul in Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Men can suffer almost anything as long as there is a "Why". Some ultimate purpose. Atheists cannot offer a "why". Pain becomes completely meaningless.

Most other religions explain suffering as a defect or evil in the person - either retribution or because they don't recognize everything is an illusion.

Christianity comes along and says the world needs chemotherapy, and we are the ones who need to undergo it if we want the world saved. We have to undergo some suffering ourselves simply to undo our own crookedness - the crookedness will scream and attack when being undone.

We are not to cause any suffering - the Devil is the root cause of all suffering, and he is sufficiently active. But to fight him, all we can do is stand between him and the world and absorb and deflect the flaming arrows (but it is why we need armor and a shield).

Blogger James Dixon August 08, 2013 5:31 PM  

> ... it wouldn't be a Vox Day religious post without the usual half-baked anti-Catholic snarkery. Sigyn's comments are particularly bad.

And yet it seems it's always a Roman Catholic who starts the ball rolling downhill.

Anonymous Josh August 08, 2013 5:32 PM  

Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses in a sewer...the birthplace of Protestantism! There is a poetic ring to it! lol!

You make a compelling argument

Anonymous Anonagain August 08, 2013 5:33 PM  

Me: No silly romantic notions here, just brutality and forced conformity.

dh: Was this sarcastic? The atheist ethic would not typically be consider romantic.


Did anyone else have a problem understanding the meaning of my comment?

I ask because it seems perfectly clear to me that the comment was not only not sarcastic, it was clear in stating the exact opposite of what dh inferred from it.

BTW, atheist ethic is a specious term.

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:37 PM  

@dh I read it as "pain = kiss from Jesus". It sounds to an un-Christian ear as just plain romanticizing pain - the same way you see athletes crowing "bring the pain" or whatever.

The alternative is utilitarianism. Would an atheist deny his atheism when being water-boarded (whether in a fox-hole or not - or rabbit warren)? Christians were tortured to death and would not recant.

I mentioned the N.I.C.E. - is vivisecting humans for medical research ok as long as we give them anesthesia?

As to "unchristian ear", listen to Kerry Livegren's "Hero's Canticle".

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:39 PM  

@Tizona

Protestantism cut off the BODY, but the head lives as it cannot die as it is the source. They cut off the branch they were sitting on at the trunk end, but it was like one of the roadrunner cartoons where Wile E runs off a cliff and feels around for a while before realizing there is no ground.

Protestants consider the living head Alcasan from Hideous Strength.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 5:46 PM  

@James

I can't help but feel like I'm doing some Religious White Knighting here

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:46 PM  

@Josh It is. It's not based in scripture, where we see Jesus healing people and taking away their pain. If pain was a kiss from Jesus, he would have kicked the cripple in the side instead of commanding him to walk.

During his ministry. Why did Jesus allow himself to be crucified.

Why did Jesus allow Peter to be crucified upside down, James and Stephen to be martyred very soon after Pentecost, Andrew crucified on an X cross, and you can look up the fates of the other Apostles and disciples. Unless you assert Jesus lost his power (these events were contemporary with many miracles being done by the disciples).

To share in Christ is to share in his Cross. If you do not share in his Cross you do not share in his Resurrection.

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:49 PM  

@Sigyn I don't know about you guys, but if I have an incapacitating headache, I'm accepting the mercy of Tylenol. There's no special virtue in not being able to think.

You may want to ask your Liver how merciful Tylenol is. Personally I prefer ethanol to Tylenol. The former has "proof", though perhaps of a different kind, 80 or better.

Blogger tz August 08, 2013 5:51 PM  

@River Cocytus
We didn't change the faith; the West did.

Eventually turning Byzantium into a Turkey in the process. Not that I can defend the west, the Roman rite has been wrong.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 5:52 PM  

"Is there some scripture that can provide reasoning for going beyond the authority of 1 Timothy 2:5?"

Perhaps in order to answer the question better a clearer understanding of it would be useful. What do you believe Catholics do in their prayers for the saints' intercession that goes "beyond the authority" as outlined in 1 Timothy?

That the saints themselves maintain the ability to participate in the life of the Church even in Heaven is supported by much of Scripture, and specifically by Ephesians 4:15-16: "(15)Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
(16)From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Prayer for the intercession of the saints is not an act of idolatrous worship of the saints, only a request for help as fellow members of Christ's Body.

Anonymous Anonagain August 08, 2013 5:57 PM  

One thing I have always wondered about is from where Catholics receive authority to pray to Mary or the Saints instead of directly to Jesus in light of 1 Timothy 2:5?

I pray to God, in the name of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. I cover all the bases. And the message only gets through if it is heartfelt, otherwise, it's just an exercise in blabbering pious words that bounce around one's skull.

Praying to dead humans, regardless of how saintly or virginal they may have been in their lifetimes, says to me that one has more faith in their ability to intercede on our behalf than Jesus, Himself. Otherwise, what exactly is the point of it?

Jesus said He would always be with us, also that wherever three of more are gathered in His name, there He will be. I'm thinking Jesus is both necessary and sufficient.

Frankly, I'd feel like a damned idiot praying to some saint or Mary.

Anonymous Porky August 08, 2013 5:57 PM  

Is there some scripture that can provide reasoning for going beyond the authority of 1 Timothy 2:5?

No.

Reverence for catholic holy men, dead or alive, is a poison.

We had a pastor once who fondled a teenager. You know what we did? We quietly sent him to another church so that he could continue groping teenagers.

Oh wait! That wasn't us. That's what the catholic church does with thousands of it's revered holy men!

We... threw the SOB in jail.

Anonymous Stickwick August 08, 2013 5:58 PM  

You may want to ask your Liver how merciful Tylenol is. Personally I prefer ethanol to Tylenol. The former has "proof", though perhaps of a different kind, 80 or better.

Sigyn is pregnant, as am I, so ethanol is out. I prefer not to take anything while pregnant, and have found that a very firm neck and upper-back rub from hubby does wonders for a headache. Although, Loki is gone, so that's not much help for Sigyn.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 6:00 PM  

For those more interested in the Protestant vs. Catholic issues, you may be interested in reading a series of articles by SF author John C. Wright, which begin at the following link:

http://www.scifiwright.com/2013/07/a-universal-apology-part-one-on-authority/

All posts identified as "A Universal Apology" thereafter are part of this sequence.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 6:00 PM  

@tz

You forget Russia. Besides, it was the West who sacked Constantinople, not the Turks.

If we had not held out as long as we did, you would all be speaking Arabic and prostrating five times a day.

Anonymous Stephen J. August 08, 2013 6:04 PM  

"Praying to dead humans, regardless of how saintly or virginal they may have been in their lifetimes, says to me that one has more faith in their ability to intercede on our behalf than Jesus, Himself. Otherwise, what exactly is the point of it?"

What's the point of asking your friends and family to pray for you? This, I assume, is something Protestants as well as Catholics do.

That's all a prayer to the saints for intercession is. It's not asking them to do something that God won't or can't; it's asking them, as eternally living members of the Church, to join their voices to yours in your prayers to God.

Blogger River Cocytus August 08, 2013 6:07 PM  

@Anonagain

Actually, praying for the dead as well as praying or asking intercessions of the dead who we believe to be with God and thus closer in connection to him than we, is not a Catholic invention either. It's an ancient practice as well.

Always missed in this argument (about asking intercession) is that no Catholic or Orthodox who does this doesn't also pray to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well.

Just to drive you guys up the wall, we make sure we use the line, 'Most Holy Theotokos, save us' for the Mother of God.

That great Cloud of Witnesses - they are always present and may indeed be listening. Some have responded to people's prayers and through God have helped them. This doesn't happen to Protestants because frankly, if you don't ask, what do you expect to happen?

Some say they are orthodox often before they realize what orthodoxy (small-o) entails: intercession with the saints is part of it, as well as prayers for the dead.

Anonymous damntull August 08, 2013 6:08 PM  

Krul,
I believe the doctrine because it's taught by the Catholic Church.
My point to Sigyn is that there is nothing in scripture against the teaching, so she needn't make a big deal about it, least of all ridicule other Christians about it.

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