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Going to Hell?
May 4, 2002 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Going to Hell? According to the Vatican, sexually active homosexuals and divorced Catholics who remarry cannot be forgiven until they give up their sin. However, it came as good news for pedophile priests that priests implicated in the sex abuse scandal can be forgiven. Has the Church lost it's relevancy, or will it just take another 350 years for it to catch up with reality as was the case with Copernicus?
posted by Mack Twain (89 comments total)

 
The Roman Catholic Church has never been guilty of catching up to reality. It's relevance remains only with those who still bury magic beans into the flat earth, and lynch innocents for witch crimes in order to hide their own sins and hypocrisies.

Christianity, Judaism, Islam.. whatever you want to call it, is still relevant in its purest of forms. Man made religion has never been properly relevant and never will be.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:14 PM on May 4, 2002


The Church has always taught that you can't be forgiven sins that you aren't willing to repudiate. There's no story here. Just idiotic reporters who don't understand elementary Christian doctrine. Blech.

What would it even mean to ask for forgiveness for doing something you have no intention of stopping? You have to at least promise to try to stop!
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2002


...divorced Catholics who remarry cannot be forgiven until they give up their sin...

Maybe someone can enlighten me as to how it's possible to correct this? Get divorced again? Seperate from your current partner and live alone? ... or do you have to get back with your ex?
posted by Fat Elvis at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2002


With the Boston diocese reneging on their settlement with victims and families (and parishioners holding back millions of dollars in donations, according to the nightly news), and keeping up with Andrew Sullivan's bitter indictments, one has the sense that the Catholic church is on the verge of a major, devastating implosion.
posted by dhartung at 7:26 PM on May 4, 2002


Fat Elvis, if you're in an illicit union, you have to stop living together as if you were man and wife, since you're not really man and wife. Sharing marital intimacy with someone you're not really married to is wrong. One less-than-satisfying solution people adopt in such circumstances is to live together as "brother and sister", sharing many aspects of family life, but not marital intimacy.

In Catholic terms, you can't give licitly give yourself to someone unless you are unencumbered, and if you have a valid marriage in your past, you aren't free to give yourself to someone else.

Often people in such circumstances will come to the conclusion that their earlier attempt at marriage was not valid, and they seek the Church's judgment on this question by seeking an annulment. While they are waiting, however, they are not yet free to contract a new marriage.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:30 PM on May 4, 2002


dhartung, the Catholic Church has survived much, much worse than this. So far as I know, the current pope doesn't have a harem, and the American Bishops weren't intimately involved in the Enron scandal (analogies taken from a recent New Republic article characterizing just how bad things would have to get to rival some of the worst episodes of Catholic history). Things are actually pretty good in the Catholic Church in America, and plenty of American adults convert to Catholicism every year. There's no implosion looming.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:36 PM on May 4, 2002


dhartung: What group of people would you regard Andrew Sullivan as a bellwether for? The guy strikes me as a hopelessly self-contradicted minority of one, not someone who represents gays, Catholics, conservatives, writers, webloggers, or any other group to which he nominally belongs.

As a person who was raised Catholic but has never been very religious and watched the Dallas diocese go through this scandal three or four years ago (with the same odious treatment of victims and efforts to shield molesting priests by reassigning them), I think Catholicism is too large to sustain any long-term damage from this. The church has managed to thrive despite idiotic pronouncements like the declaration that divorced Catholics are bound for hell. What's a few hundred kiddy rapers?
posted by rcade at 7:37 PM on May 4, 2002


rcade, divorced Catholics are not in any trouble; the Church even advises people to get civilly divorced under certain circumstances.

It's divorced people who subsequently enter into illicit unions (by attempting marriage outside the Church) who have a problem in the eyes of the Church.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:40 PM on May 4, 2002


How reassuring. The only ones bound for Hell are the Catholics who remarry rather than seeking an annulment that pretends their original marraige was never valid, even if it produced children.

For a hilarious look at this issue, check out this $149 Catholic annulment page. "With or Without Children or Property ... Annulment: Spouse's Signature Not Required."
posted by rcade at 7:49 PM on May 4, 2002


Um, why wouldn't the priests be able to be forgive if they gave up their sin as well. I see no contradiction.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on May 4, 2002


rcade, there's a definition of validity. If the annulment process makes clear that the definition wasn't satisfied, why is it "pretending" to declare someone's failed attempt at marriage invalid?
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:57 PM on May 4, 2002


I'm the child of divorced people married by the Catholic church. How do you think I feel about the notion that their marriage was invalid from the moment it began until the moment it ended 13 years later?
posted by rcade at 8:03 PM on May 4, 2002


rcade: I can't see why you would care about it one way or the other. What difference does it make to your life whether or not your parents were validly married? It's not like your relationship to your parents or to the Church depends in any way on it. So why should you feel any way at all about the notion that they were not validly married?
posted by peeping_Thomist at 8:12 PM on May 4, 2002


Assuming for the sake of argument that active homosexuality or remarriage is sinful, I find it troubling that the church could say that a person's failure to repent of one particular sin condemns them to hell. Doesn't every single person, Catholic or not, fail to acknowledge many of the sins that they commit? Personally, if I had to get forgiveness every time I failed to love my neighbor as myself, I'd be in church all day. We all have certain attitudes of pridefulness, greed, self-centeredness etc. that lead us to think and do all sorts of bad things without even realizing it. Under this scheme it seems that everyone is going to hell, from the Pope right on down.

From my (admittedly Protestant) perspective, the key element of the Christian faith is being able to see that we are sinners, not being able to ennumerate each sin we have committed so we can be sure to confess it.
posted by boltman at 8:31 PM on May 4, 2002


With many religions, sometimes its easier to ask "who DOESN'T go to hell?" rather than "who is going to hell?".

Of course, the church would rather you marry someone of the opposite sex, have 10-12 children, and continue on until your life end. Never mind the fact you might be gay, dislike children, get stuck in a loveless marriage, or some other problem that is likely to befall your path the church has given.

You only get one life, damnit. Live it like you want to live it, not how someone wants to tell you that you should be living it. Once your life is up, its done. No going back. No deposit, no return. Live life to the fullest, and live it how you want to.
posted by benjh at 8:39 PM on May 4, 2002


boltman: Catholics distinguish between mortal (or grave) sin, which kills the soul, and venial (or light) sin, which disposes us to commit mortal sin.

Catholics are obliged to confess all post-baptismal mortal sins, and very strongly encouraged to confess their post-baptismal venial sins as they increase in self-knowledge. Most of the attitudes and bad things you describe involve venial sins, and do not directly kill the soul -- instead they make it lukewarm, and more susceptible to the blandishments of mortal sin.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 8:45 PM on May 4, 2002


Thomist: If you're trying to say that the Catholic seal of approval on a marriage is meaningless and my parents could have lived together "in sin" for 13 years without adversely affecting my relationship with them, I agree.

However, since I'm a lapsed Catholic, if I am ever going to buy into this dogma at some point in my life, one of the stumbling blocks I face is the notion that my parents couldn't marry others without getting the church to claim they were never validly married -- making me retroactively illegitimate (though I know the church dances around that term deftly).

Sorry if I'm being a bastard about this, but at this point I put the Catholic end-run around divorce right up there with simony and Scientology as examples of organized religion run amok. In 1968, the Catholic church granted 338 annulments in the U.S. In 1990, 62,000. (Source.) Either something's screwy here, or the Catholic church has gotten exponentionally worse at marrying people in my lifetime.
posted by rcade at 8:56 PM on May 4, 2002


boltman, please don't confuse Catholicism with Christianity. Catholicism is actually an amalgamation of several religions, including those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who worshipped many gods. Basically, each time the Romans conquered a new civilization, that civilization's religion was incorporated. This way, no one would feel left out. Catholicism may focus on the one true God now, but the fact remains that it has a long way to go.

What Jesus said was this: any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery, the same with a woman who marries a divorced man. The only way a divorced man or woman can "remarry" is through reconciliation with their former spouse.

The bible states quite plainly that adulterers will not be allowed into heaven.
posted by schlaager at 9:27 PM on May 4, 2002


I have seen people buy annulments from the Catholic church. The only factor involved was cash. Indulgences for the 21st century.
posted by rushmc at 9:34 PM on May 4, 2002


What Jesus said was this:

Chapter and Verse, please?
posted by rushmc at 9:35 PM on May 4, 2002


Chapter and Verse, please?

Matthew 5:32
posted by schlaager at 9:39 PM on May 4, 2002


rcade, I don't agree that annulment is a Catholic end-run around divorce. Some people who apply for annulments are turned down because the marriage tribunal concludes there is insufficient evidence that the marriage was invalid. Others receive annulments because the marriage tribunal discovers that the attempted marriage never satisfied the criteria for validity. Is that so mysterious?

You point out that the number of annulments in the U.S. has skyrocketed. I suppose in part that may be due to abuses of the annulment process, but I suspect a more significant factor is the rapidly declining ability of contemporary American Catholics to understand what marriage is in the first place. A lot of American Catholics attempt marriage with the thought that "if this doesn't work out, I'll just get divorced". It's not clear that such a person has ever consented to being married.

Regarding your own feelings, I was too glib earlier. My own parents weren't Catholic. They divorced, and never would have thought to seek an annulment. (They probably could have received an annulment if they'd wanted, since at least one of them was almost certainly not free to contract a valid marriage.) The Church teaches that human beings have a right to be born in the context of a loving, life-long marriage of husband and wife, and children born in invalid unions have been deprived of that right. I think part of growing up is realizing that your parents weren't perfect, and loving them anyway.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 9:45 PM on May 4, 2002


Like shooting fish in a barrel...
posted by jca at 9:53 PM on May 4, 2002


Having been baptized and raised as a Catholic, then studied other religions as a teen and young adult, I came to the conclusion that despite what they tried to indoctrinate us young'uns with in the days of catechism class, the Catholic Church has about the same amount to offer its true believers as any other religion does - nothing special. Reminds me of an old, old joke....Person dies, goes to heaven, St. Peter gives the obligatory newbie tour. He shows vast expanses of beautiful scenery, singing angels with harps, the heavenly choirs and the souls of the blessed doing pretty near anything they wish (a noted Catholic kiddie dream!). The tour goes by one small, dark room with a whole bunch of people crowded in there, jostling, bumping each other. The newbie says, "St. Peter, who are those people?" The St. replies, "Oh that's the Catholics, they think they're the only ones up here."

And this is my last comment on matters Catholic.
posted by Lynsey at 9:56 PM on May 4, 2002


The bible states quite plainly that adulterers will not be allowed into heaven.

schlaager: the Bible also says that any man that looks at a woman with lust in his heart commits adultery. I guess that means every single man on earth is going to hell?

Christian morality is not about acts--it's about character and attitudes.
posted by boltman at 10:04 PM on May 4, 2002


Matthew 12:31
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.


How about going back to authentic Christianity, not "catching up".
posted by aaronshaf at 10:04 PM on May 4, 2002


boltman: if Christian morality is about character and attitudes, then it is also about acts, in which both are expressed. Perhaps you mean that Christian morality is not only about acts? In that case, I agree. But note that there are certain kinds of acts that are straightforwardly incompatible with having proper character and attitudes -- and those are the kinds of acts Catholics call mortal sins.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 10:09 PM on May 4, 2002


aaronshaf, what translation is that? mine reads "every blasphemy against the son of man," meaning himself. Also, i think the context of this is different. Jesus said this in response to the pharasees accusing him of driving out demons by the power of Satan.

boltman, you entirely correct. Every single man, every married man, every single and married woman would be hell-bound, if it were not for God's grace and faith in Jesus.

No flames, please. If you disagree, don't condemn the messenger.
posted by schlaager at 10:22 PM on May 4, 2002


Actually, peeping Thomist, Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace and faith, and not by works.
posted by schlaager at 10:25 PM on May 4, 2002


So then how would blasphemy, a work, influence anything?
posted by NortonDC at 10:38 PM on May 4, 2002


NortonDC, do you frequently believe in what you say? If we are saved or condemned by faith, grace, and our mindsets, then we are also condemned by them. When you speak or do something blasphemous, there is a mindset behind the action. That is how blasphemy influences you.
posted by schlaager at 10:45 PM on May 4, 2002


That's pure bullshit. It's a speech act, like apoligizing--the speech is the act.
posted by NortonDC at 10:48 PM on May 4, 2002


I was also baptized catholic shortly after birth, and was compelled to attend catholic schools through high school. I gradually came to the conclusion that catholisism and indeed all christianity was part and parcel a load of bullshit designed to control the thoughts, actions, and pocketbooks of the members of the flock.

The catholic church has zero status to make determinations as to the validity of my first marriage or my current one.

The decendants of the perpetrators of the inquisition, torturers and murderers for the crime of "heresy", have shredded their credibility. Their inhumane stance against birth control for even the poorest families and the misery created attendant to it gives a more current indictment of the policies.

Of the peculiar teachings of the catholic cult, none originated with the supposed starter of the faith. Celibacy didn't come into vogue among priests until the 4th century. They weren't afraid enough of a knowledgable public to issue the declaration of papal infallibility until the early 1870's.

If there is indeed a hell, I'm sure that these evil bastards will find themselves at the lowest levels of it. No flames to the messenger, but I do believe I have successfully blasphemed the fictional deity.

Just my opinion.
posted by scottymac at 11:09 PM on May 4, 2002


schlaager: the Catholic Church does not teach that we can save ourselves by our own works. I'm not sure what you think I've said that suggests otherwise.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 11:15 PM on May 4, 2002


peeping: I just don't believe that there is any act that is so heinous that God is not big enough to forgive it. I also believe that there can be good-faith disagreements between Christians over what constitutes sin and what does not, without one side necessarily being condemned to hell as a result. Otherwise, my excellent female pastor is going to hell along with me and most of the Christians I know.

As far as the character vs. acts question, I would make a distinction between the person that remarries believing in good faith that it is what God wants for them and a person that remarries despite a belief that it is evil to do so. The act is the same, but the attitute that motivates the act is totally different. That's what's important.

schlaager: i agree about the God's grace thing. so what's with the comment about people who remarry going to hell?
posted by boltman at 11:25 PM on May 4, 2002


What group of people would you regard Andrew Sullivan as a bellwether for? The guy strikes me as a hopelessly self-contradicted minority of one

Ahh, the old Uncle Tom argument. What niche do you expect Mr. Sullivan to pound himself into, rcade? Because he chooses a politically incorrect (for gays) faith, he's "hopelessly self-contradicted"? Do you know a person who validates like a good web page, with all their code in its place? The more 'hopelessly contradicted' someone is, the more human I say.

But I guess mine is the opinion of another hopelessly contradicted queer who doesn't wear enough velvet and wear enough Act-Up buttons...

I wish we didn't view God as some litigious, cold-fingered petty bureaucrat who pours over reams of laws, codes, and statutes waiting to burn us for an infraction. That seems a really disappointing image of the Divine. I support anyone's decision to follow their faith the way they see fit, until they start hurting other people or consigining them to the Lake of Fire for following their nature.
posted by evanizer at 11:32 PM on May 4, 2002


peeping: given schlaager's Catholic-bashing comment above, i'd just like to add that while I do disagree with the catholic church on some fairly important theological issues (such as this one), i also think that there is a lot Protestants can learn from Catholisism. i love the catholic liturgy, the monastic tradition, the emphaisis on unity, the strong emphasis on economic and distributive justice, the importance of the sacraments, the emphasis on mystery as an element of faith. I'm hopeful that the eccumenical dialogue between our two faiths will continue.
posted by boltman at 11:38 PM on May 4, 2002


peeping thomist, i wasn't exactly sure what your point was, that's why i came back the way i did. sorry.
posted by schlaager at 11:53 PM on May 4, 2002


i agree about the God's grace thing. so what's with the comment about people who remarry going to hell?

That wasn't my comment, although i may have implied it. according to scripture, a person who remarries anyone but their former spouse is an adulterer, and adulterers will not enter heaven.
posted by schlaager at 11:58 PM on May 4, 2002


> making me retroactively illegitimate

and

> Sorry if I'm being a bastard about this

Nyuk nyuk.
posted by pracowity at 4:26 AM on May 5, 2002


boltman, please don't confuse Catholicism with Christianity. Catholicism is actually an amalgamation of several religions, including those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who worshipped many gods.

Wow, that's a blast from the past. It reminds me of the Christian Union at university that tried 'converting' Catholics to their One True Faith. Didn't work then, won't work now: that brand of modern 'authentic Christianity' (i.e. the bizarrely ahistorical evangelical stuff that's been exported from the US to certain Protestants here) has fuck-all in common with the early church, as a brief glimpse at, say, the Chaldeans or the Copts may suggest. Unless you believe that the rot set in within a few generations. Anyway, wasn't it Stephen Dedalus who said that he wouldn't abandon a coherent absurdity for an incoherent one?

Anyway, I suspect the current scandal is more about the institutional position of Catholicism within the US, rather than the church as a whole. These things are associated, it seems, with what I'll call as a shortcut 'New England Catholicism', rather than the church of Hispanic, or Italian, or Portuguese immigrants. How long, then, before you have an American church led by someone from those communities? (Not that there aren't problems beyond the US, but they're quite different in character.)
posted by riviera at 5:59 AM on May 5, 2002


Matthew 5:32

Thanks, schlaager.
posted by rushmc at 7:21 AM on May 5, 2002


schlaager, it's definitely Holy Spirit (some say "Ghost"):

Matthew 12:31
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (NIV-IBS)

Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. (NASB)

It's translated Spirit in every major translation. Also, the greek word being translated is pneuma, which is the Holy Spirit, especially in this context.

Rejection of the Holy Spirit is rejecting His prompting to believe in Christ. Other than that, there isn't anything God can't forgive us for. He's that powerful.
posted by aaronshaf at 7:29 AM on May 5, 2002


peeping_Thomist, your views and beliefs make no sense to me whatsoever, I can find no shred of anything that I recognize as true about the world in them, and if I DID believe they were true, I would find them abhorrent and place myself in opposition to them...but I appreciate your efforts to express and describe them here without rancor or blatant proselytizing.

As always, I will leave you with one simple question to ask yourself: What if I'm wrong? Unlike Pascal, I, personally, find the consequences for believing in a God that doesn't exist to be worse than not believing in one who does. One should believe what one will, certainly, but the man who is incapable of asking himself the above question is a fanatic, and fanatics, IMO, abdicate their claim to credibility.
posted by rushmc at 7:31 AM on May 5, 2002


Every[one] would be hell-bound, if it were not for God's grace and faith in Jesus.

according to scripture, a person who remarries anyone but their former spouse is an adulterer, and adulterers will not enter heaven


so they'll be forgiven by god's grace and then sent to hell anyway? Or just made to sit outside the gate for eternity?
posted by mdn at 7:36 AM on May 5, 2002


Rogers, regarding Sullivan, it's not just his opinion -- he's been collecting comments and columns on his weblog for weeks now from all corners of the country. I'm not holding him up as a sample of one that is representative of Catholics as a whole, but as a reporter. (One knows what you feel about Sullivan, to be sure, since you have never shown any interest in concealing your prejudices.)

Here in Chicago, last week there were calls for the otherwise well-respected Cardinal George to resign after his poorly-considered comments (no matter how rational) that a consensual relationship with a 17-year-old girl was different than molesting a younger boy. One simply gets the sense that this is a tarbaby issue that few people are going to pass through unscathed.
posted by dhartung at 7:37 AM on May 5, 2002


Also schlaager, the Bible says we're all wicked and deserve to go to Hell. All sinners are supposed to go to hell, on a standard of perfection.

Romans 3:9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better ? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."
13"Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
14"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17and the way of peace they do not know."
18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Romans 4:5 However, to the man who does not "work" but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

It's all in there, especially Romans. Check it out.

Only wicked sinners (we all are) who are in Christ will go to heaven.
posted by aaronshaf at 7:39 AM on May 5, 2002


Sorry, here's my third thing to say:

Matthew 5:27-28
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

By that standard, can you really trust your entrance into heaven with your own obedience to a code of conduct?

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
posted by aaronshaf at 7:43 AM on May 5, 2002


Pudendites, Book 5, Chapter 4, 6:66 And Lucifer did sayeth unto his minions - "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?"
posted by nikzhowz at 7:44 AM on May 5, 2002


:::reading aaronshaf's comments:::

What a cult of self-loathing...

:::shakes head in disbelief:::
posted by rushmc at 7:46 AM on May 5, 2002


Regarding your own feelings, I was too glib earlier. ... The Church teaches that human beings have a right to be born in the context of a loving, life-long marriage of husband and wife, and children born in invalid unions have been deprived of that right. I think part of growing up is realizing that your parents weren't perfect, and loving them anyway.

No harm done. I regard my personal dilemma as a problem for the Catholic Church rather than a problem for me, because it excludes people who might otherwise find their way back into the fold. I appreciate your perspective.
posted by rcade at 8:02 AM on May 5, 2002


boltman: I agree that there's no sin that God can't forgive (apart from the mysterious "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit"). Catholics believe that confession is the ordinary means by which God forgives the grave sins of the baptized. You apparently envision God forgiving serious sins for which we refuse to ask forgiveness. Where does that leave people who wish to reject God's offer of salvation?
posted by peeping_Thomist at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2002


Other than that, there isn't anything God can't forgive us for. He's that powerful.

i am that powerful too, watch!

everyone's brain is full of beans!
now, by my awesome power, all the beans in your brains will be gone. pow!
now, they are all gone, pretty amazing huh? i'm that powerful!

open up your brains if you don't believe me!
posted by rhyax at 8:22 AM on May 5, 2002


Ahh, the old Uncle Tom argument. What niche do you expect Mr. Sullivan to pound himself into, rcade? Because he chooses a politically incorrect (for gays) faith, he's "hopelessly self-contradicted"?

I don't think Sullivan's betraying any of the groups to which he claims to belong -- I just don't think he's a representative example of any of them because his beliefs are all over the map.

(One knows what you feel about Sullivan, to be sure, since you have never shown any interest in concealing your prejudices.)

Calling my opinion on the guy a "prejudice" is hilarious, Dan. I've given his site at least 200 visits and you and I have exchanged comments about him several times here on MetaFilter. I'd like to formally retract my earlier compliment that you're better than the warbloggers. I'm beginning to get a new appreciation for your kinship with that gang of hostile and insular bloviating dorks.
posted by rcade at 8:25 AM on May 5, 2002


Mine's still full of beans. Baked beans. Tasty. I'm eating them as I ty
posted by pracowity at 8:36 AM on May 5, 2002


What a cult of self-loathing

it's true that Christianity has a fundamentally pessimistic view of human nature. but, the question to ask is whether this is inconsistent with reality? If you just pick up the newspaper or a history book and look at all the horrible things people are capable of doing to each other, it strongly suggests that human nature is, well, somewhat less that inherently good. Most people probably read about the Israel-Palestine conflict or the Enron scandal and think they could never be like the Enron executives or the suicide bombers blowing up innoncent civilians. Christians simply recognize that they is us.

peeing: I don't believe that the forgiveness of any particular individual sin is necessary for salvation. Rather, what God requires of us is a recognition of our sinfulness generally--our need for his grace. Incidently, that was Martin Luther's great insight that led him to challenge the church all those centuries ago.
posted by boltman at 8:41 AM on May 5, 2002


oops. sorry i meant "peeping." proofread boltman!
posted by boltman at 8:43 AM on May 5, 2002


oh no, pracowity, you didn't believe strong enough. but at least you got a tasty meal.
posted by rhyax at 9:09 AM on May 5, 2002


boltman: while it is true that certain versions of Protestant Christianity have a fundamentally pessimistic view of human nature, such is not true of Christian churches generally, and certainly not of the numerical majority of Christians. Catholics, specifically, believe that God's grace empowers regenerate human nature to perform good actions. Apart from God we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Christ. Catholics believe that Christ actually heals our broken human nature, whereas Luther talks about human nature as being like a dung heap covered over by a layer of white snow (Christ's merits).

In any case, your notion of acknowledging "our sinfulness generally" without ever asking forgiveness for this or that "particular individual sin" eludes me. I know my wife would never stand for it, and I don't see how Christ could remain in an intimate relationship with someone who never asked forgiveness for particular sins against Him.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 9:13 AM on May 5, 2002


This could be an interesting site for all the chapter quoters out there The Skeptics Annotated Bible.

The bible also says that the value of Pi is 3 - just worth a thought
posted by bregdan at 10:21 AM on May 5, 2002


boltman: I think you do humanity a great disservice by basing your opinion on it on historical, world-shaping, or newsmaking events as covered in print. What about the *other* things, like the helpful and kind things individual people do in their day-to-day lives? Judging an entire species of individuals on the actions of a few seems wrong to me.

Once a religion advocates things that make no logical sense (beyond the obvious faith-related ones, obviously), and which can be actively damaging to other people, about things which seem to make no real difference in the world anyway, I fail to see how people can continue having absolute faith in their religion (faith in God(s) is another matter). I think the Catholic Church is doomed if it doesn't start adapting to reflect the positive ways in which humanity's common values are changing. I mean, what positive difference could possibly be made by Catholic homosexuals denying their sexuality (not to mention why would they want to stay in a church that told them to)? What positive difference could possibly be made by people feeling they have to stay in marriages that just don't work because their religion tells them they have no other choice? I just don't get it myself, but I appreciate the opinions and perspectives given here by those who do.

And what rushmc said.
posted by biscotti at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2002


I think the Catholic Church is doomed if it doesn't start adapting to reflect the positive ways in which humanity's common values are changing.

Well, biscotti, at least you and I can agree that some kind of doom is in the offing if humanity's common values and the Church's teaching are not brought into conformity with each other! :)
posted by peeping_Thomist at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2002


Christians simply recognize that they is us.

That view neglects to take into accout that a great many (not all, certainly) of negative, destructive, hateful, irrational, violent, and unfriendly acts, on a personal level or an historical scale, have been and continue to be prompted, dictated, and/or encouraged by Christians and their churches and doctrine. Christianity is interwoven so thoroughly into our society, that it is unclear what it might be like without it. So one might fairly ask, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

An alternate view of human nature might be that we are an amalgam of various instincts, desires and abilities, and that we can choose to respond positively or negatively to any given situation. And that we can be influenced by others (including those representing organized religions, who, as a direct result of the fact that they ARE organized, often have a disproportionate influence) in one direction or the other. One who uses biblical authority to justify his suppression of women or biases against certain people remains responsible for this choice; yet it would be remiss not to note the effect of the influence, or to deny the culpability of those behind it.
posted by rushmc at 11:03 AM on May 5, 2002


I don't see how Christ could remain in an intimate relationship with someone who never asked forgiveness for particular sins against Him

But we've already established that we all sin unconsciously all the time and fail to ask forgiveness for many of these sins. From what I've understood from your posts, a person that thinks of no one but himself, pursues money and power all his life, but avoids this formalistic category called "moral sin" can have a relationship with Christ while a person who loves Gods and devotes his life to the service of others, but remarries because he disagrees with the church's position on remarriage, cannot have a relationship with Christ. As evanizer put it above, this seems like a fairly litigious view of God, no?

As far as the view of human nature, I agree that all the good we manage to do in our lives is attibutable solely to God's grace. However, the church's current scandal seems to suggest that Christians, like anyone else, are capable of rather eggregious evil.

Also, which Protestant demoninations to you think believe in the goodness of human nature? So far as I know, all Protestant denominations share Luther's view of humanity.

biscotti: having worked extensively in low-income communities over the past several years, I can assure you can the evil in the world is not limited to the history books and the newspaper. The sheer apathy (if not downright hostility) by the fortunate toward the less-fortunate that is ubiquitous in our society to me is a powerful symbol of our self-centerness and our failure to love others as we love ourselves.

rushmc: the New Testament is very clear in condemning violence against others by Christians. That would suggest that "Christianty" is not responsible for any violence so much as disobediant Christians. People use religion, just like they use ideology and nationalism to justify their evil actions. This is not some novel contribution by Christianity, it is simply more evidence that human nature, is in fact, more evil than it is good.
posted by boltman at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2002


boltman: Far from us having "already established that we all sin unconsciously", I don't even know what that locution means. The phrase "unconscious sin" conveys nothing to me.

As for "all Protestant denominations" agreeing with Luther's view of humanity, in my limited experience the only thing all Protestants agree on is that they aren't interested in being Catholics.

In any case, Catholics deny that "human nature is in fact more evil than it is good". Human nature is damaged, frail, broken, marred, or what have you, and without grace we can do nothing pleasing in God's sight, but human nature itself is still good, and God's grace is not lacking. A body that is diseased does not thereby become "more evil than it is good", though it may be impossible to restore it to health without medical intervention.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 11:36 AM on May 5, 2002


The bible also says that the value of Pi is 3 - just worth a thought

Well, the value of pi is three if you're calculating it to only one significant digit.
posted by kindall at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2002


unconscious sin" conveys nothing to me

Sin that we don't realize we are committing because we are self-absorbed. Failing to love your neighbor as yourself is a good example. I, for one, commit that sin all the time. Sometimes I don't realize it until later. Many times, presumably, I don't recognize it at all. You seem to see this as "venal" sin and therefore not necessary to ask forgiveness of. What I'm saying is that a person who consistently behaves like a jerk to their neighbors seems at least as blameworthy than a person that choses to remarry after a divorce.
posted by boltman at 12:14 PM on May 5, 2002


kindall: good point. 3.14 is no more a correct value for pi than 3 is.
posted by ODiV at 1:30 PM on May 5, 2002


boltman: please, it's "mortal and venial", not "moral and venal"!

One way of capturing the distinction is that venial sins have to do with how well or badly we're living out our Christian lives. I can fail in various ways to fully live up to the demands of the Gospel, some of which it may take years even to recognize. Mortal sin, on the other hand, has to do with actions that decisively and irrevocably (unless I'm restored by a supernatural act by Christ, ordinarily in the sacrament of confession) cut me off completely from communion with the Body of Christ. Until the life of grace in the soul is restored, none of my actions has any merit. Of course, on your view, none of our actions has any merit anyway! :)

To get a sense of the difference I'm talking about, think about the different reactions we have to someone who murders his family, and someone who forgets our birthday. Certain kinds of Protestants are fond of saying that all sin is equally bad, but that strikes me (and most people, even most Protestants) as hooey.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 1:37 PM on May 5, 2002


~Forget my birthday at your peril, you worthless bastards.~
posted by rodii at 1:45 PM on May 5, 2002


Well, the value of pi is three if you're calculating it to only one significant digit.

Hmm...so what you're saying is that religion only calculates morality to one significant digit....
posted by rushmc at 1:48 PM on May 5, 2002


but that strikes me (and most people, even most Protestants) as hooey

of course you are entitled to your opinion. i would just suggest that it is no more "hooey" than the idea that sin neatly cleaves into two formalistic categories.

i think i'm done here.
posted by boltman at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2002


Hmm...so what you're saying is that religion only calculates morality to one significant digit....

I was unaware morality could be calculated from pi. That's pretty cool!
posted by kindall at 2:44 PM on May 5, 2002


Oh for goodness sake are we still going on this kick?

Some say there's a finite number of reservations for heaven, or that you can buy your way in. Religions are made by men, and their explanations of how one can worm their way through those pearly gates are sheer guesses, and not very educated ones at that. They all claim to be inspired by God who is arguably infallible, but they were written by Man, who is notorious for being wrong most of the time. In a feeble attempt to explain God and everything we don't understand about the universe, theology is hypothetical poppycock. Let's be honest. The only people who really know how the afterlife works are dead, and they ain't talkin'.

There's a supreme force of some sort. I think. But then I'm just guessing. Even if we are all distant descendants of monkeys, it's empirically impossible that so much order can come from such chaos in what we tentatively call a universe. Especially when there's that entropy stuff happening which tends to allow order to decay into chaos if something or someone doesn't keep track of things. Just look at your house after a party and you'll see what I mean.

Beyond all of that, it's a crapshoot. Does the supreme force go by Jehovah or Allah or Yahweh or George? God knows. Paul was sitting in a jailcell pondering all this crap through most of the New Testament. How can we take Paul's words seriously when God wouldn't even pay his bail? Is He even a guy? We don't know. Maybe He's a Goddess? He certainly is tempermental. Moody. Men have claimed he's universal, eternal and never changes, but God does have a tendency of changing His mind on a dime. And it's His prerogative, isn't it? He could just as easily be a She as be an It.

Religion doesn't calculate morality. Religion makes it up as it goes along, and often gets it wrong. Worship whatever God you want, but don't for a nanosecond believe you know what He knows is best for you. The thing that annoys me the most about pretty much every religion is how it answers the most perplexing question: why did God give us free will? He wouldn't have given us free will if He didn't intend for us to use it. Replace the fear of sin with good old fashioned common sense and you'll get on in life just fine. Whether there's a room with a view for you in heaven? Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Ultimately, religion's true purpose is not to get you into heaven, but to keep your feet firmly planted on Earth. The whole morality thing is designed to keep everyone in their place. It's control. Do what they tell you while living, and they might put a good word in for you after it no longer really matters. And if God ain't listening to them? Well, it'll be too late to sue, so it's the perfect scam. Still interested? Sign on the dotted line for eternal salvation or triple your money back, and buy the brooklyn bridge while you're at it. Order your own soul now! Operators are standing by!
posted by ZachsMind at 3:05 PM on May 5, 2002


Actually, in regards to the Copernicus flap, I am currently reading Paralax which offers an entirely different view of the trial of Galileo. Galileo himself was a pious Catholic (a factor that probably lead to his willingness to accept the injunction on promoting the Copernican system) and he was actually encouraged by the Pope to publish his findings. Some of his greatest support came from Jesuit scholars who immediately bought copies of his books, built their own telescopes, and confirmed his findings.

In fact, the history of the Church vs. Galileo appears to be less about religion vs. science, then an internal conflict between mainstream Catholicism and the reactionary counter-reformation. There are certainly many contemporary parallels from the Ultra- conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist convention to the conflict between liberal and fundamentalist Islam.

I am very comforted to see that the "no true Scotsman" fallacy is still the primary rationalization for Christian misconduct if only because it demonstrates that Christians manage to be consistently wrong rather than arbitrarily wrong. The fact that Christians don't seem to be much more moral than any other religious or philosophical group demonstrates a major flaw in their argument that we need Christianity in order to behave in a moral manner.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:09 PM on May 5, 2002


3.14 is no more a correct value for pi than 3 is

that depends on if "correct" is a binary state. if you can be more or less correct, as you say, then yes 3.14 is more correct, as the difference between it and pi is smaller than the difference between 3 and pi.

it's empirically impossible that so much order can come from such chaos in what we tentatively call a universe

actually empirical means this: Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment: empirical laws.

so clearly you cannot create the experiment you claim, unless you have even more powerful tricks than my bean-magic. and back to the second law argument...

The energy available after a chemical reaction is less than that at the beginning of a reaction; energy conversions are not 100% efficient.

or

in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.


it's important to remember the system is not a monkey, or a person (which are remarkably organized) but the entire universe. life does organize itself, but at the energetic expense of the universe. we are using the sun's energy, and that energy cannot be regained, so entropy increases.

it's incorrect to think this law says nothing can become more ordered, i can place one rock on top of another, and the bacteria in the soil can metabolize sugar to make a cell membrane without violating any thermodynamic law.
posted by rhyax at 4:43 PM on May 5, 2002


The error in the value of Pi is even more whopping when you consider was that it was wrong two contemporaries of the first Biblical scribes. But then again for most of Christianity, there is no need to take the Bible literally, the question just becomes which is literal and which is figurative.

I find it interesting that creationists argue that the second law thermodynamics means that evolution cannot happen, and yet they never say that the second law thermodynamics excludes the creation of super cell thunderstorms or hurricanes that are highly developed, highly structured complex systems that arise spontaneously from access quantities of energy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:44 PM on May 5, 2002


boltman: I hope I haven't said anything to suggest that it's a simple matter to distinguish serious from light sins. Claiming that a particular distinction exists doesn't automatically confer on one the ability to neatly sort everything into one or the other category. Any time we draw significant distinctions, we're likely to encounter borderline cases. But that doesn't make the distinctions themselves arbitrary. Catholics think there's a significant distinction between grave and light sins.

Also, I regret having suggested that there is nothing at all valuable (it's "hooey") in the characteristically Protestant notion that all sin is equally bad. Understood one way, this claim is obviously true: without grace, the person who sinned least in this life would be damned every bit as the most profligate libertine. Perfection is the standard, and without grace all of us without exception fall short of it. The analogy one sometimes hears is that distinguishing the relative badness of sins is like comparing the performances of people trying to long jump over the Atlantic Ocean: some people may get a few feet further into the water than others, but they all fall completely and utterly short of the goal. Catholics do not deny this point.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 5:52 PM on May 5, 2002


This could be an interesting site for all the chapter quoters out there The Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Warning! True skeptics should be on notice not to trust anything on this site without FIRST CHECKING THE CONTEXT. SAB has an annoying habit of misrepresenting facts, even to the point of inserting arbitrary periods into the middle of sentences where -- coincidentally, I'm sure -- the excluded final clause of the sentence repudiates the point that they're trying to make.

Case in point, here's the random verse I got on the main page:

"If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee.--Lev.25:39 [emphasis in the SAB]

Here's what the verse really says:

"And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:. [emphasis mine]

And so a verse condemning slavery, at least within certain contexts, is transformed into a verse allowing slavery. Funny how that works.

And that's only the blatant structural misrepresentations; the misrepresentations of meaning are far worse, because they're far more subtle. If you can't trust the SAB to be upfront about all the facts, how can you trust it's conclusions?

SAB is a deceptive sleight of hand intended to sway the uninformed over to a particular point of view.
posted by gd779 at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2002


Larry Hagman is the center of the universe. I can prove it.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:54 PM on May 5, 2002


evanizer: profligate libertine

I like that...
posted by evanizer at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2002


Let's be honest. The only people who really know how the afterlife works are dead, and they ain't talkin'.

Maybe because they ain't able, since the complex adaptive system that was their conscious brain and communicative body (tongue, or hands, that had learned to express thoughts through language) is now turning into dirt.

The 2nd law thing is a stronger argument against afterlife, as it states that energy must come from somewhere. In a living body, we take in energy by breathing and eating, and this sustains the remarkably well organized system of the body. A dead person no longer takes in any energy: so how is it able to continue to expend energy? If you claim it takes in energy through God, where does god's energy come from, and why is it completely undetectable (from a scientific perspective)?
posted by mdn at 8:07 PM on May 5, 2002


The bible also says that the value of Pi is 3 - just worth a thought

Well, the value of pi is three if you're calculating it to only one significant digit.


It seems to me that most religion consists of guilt, and self flaggelation regarding the possession, use, and enjoyment of one's significant digit.
posted by scottymac at 8:22 PM on May 5, 2002


The 2nd law thing is a stronger argument against afterlife, as it states that energy must come from somewhere

Yes, mdn, but you must take into account the fact that hell is exothermic.
posted by vacapinta at 9:19 PM on May 5, 2002


> SAB is a deceptive sleight of hand intended to sway the
> uninformed over to a particular point of view.

As if the Bible isn't.
posted by pracowity at 2:28 AM on May 6, 2002


we are using the sun's energy, and that energy cannot be regained, so entropy increases

...there's a very large ball of hydrogen over there, getting a hell of a lot simpler by the millenia. This more than balances out any brief flicker of complexity over here...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:53 AM on May 6, 2002


This thread resembles nothing so much as a debate at a Trekkie convention.
"You are wrong, sir. The Prime Directive clearly states that..."
posted by signal at 1:37 PM on May 6, 2002


This could be an interesting site for all the chapter quoters out there The Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Warning! True skeptics should be on notice not to trust anything on this site without FIRST CHECKING THE CONTEXT.


I'd take that as a given for any site on the net - and just about anything else in life. The question is, how far do you take that context?

The bible has been translated, changed, censored, etc at many points in the past. Do we all learn Aramaic and read from the original? Does anyone know/remember a game called Chinese Whispers, where a word/phrase gets whispered to the next person to you usually getting a totally garbled word/phrase by the end of the line? Well I can only guess that translation from Aramaic (I think, although I could be a million miles out) to Latin to Old English to Middle English to Modern English with a few thees and thous slipped in would do to a big fat collection of stories - like reading a French to Japanese to English translation from the BabelFish

The Dead Sea Scrolls - are they a valid addition or have the context changes in various translations over the centuries improved on the texts as they were written?

I know that one of the phrases changed from "they who piss against the wall" to "men" - they could have been talking about dogs for all we know (yes I know it's absurd).

By the way - this is in no way a troll or personally aimed at gd779 (just making it clear).
posted by bregdan at 5:09 AM on May 7, 2002


Does anyone know/remember a game called Chinese Whispers, where a word/phrase gets whispered to the next person to you usually getting a totally garbled word/phrase by the end of the line?

We always called it "Telephone."
posted by rushmc at 7:18 PM on May 7, 2002


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