Why Is the Catholic Church Considered the Most Homophobic Religious Institution?

Note: Parts of this essay came from a reply I gave on the Bilgrimage blog earlier in the day. I added some more content and edited other parts for clarity.

According to a recent study, the Catholic church is the religious organization that is perceived to be the most hostile to LGBT people:

http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014.LGBT_REPORT.pdf (scroll down to page 3)

This is interesting, because this same study indicates that a majority of Catholics (56 percent) are in favor of same-sex marriage, but 73 percent of Catholics believe that their fellow co-religionists are against marriage equality. Even among Catholics who are regular mass-goers, the percentage who support same-sex marriage is 50 percent. Assuming these finds are correct (I have seen other studies that reach the same findings with regard to Catholic support of same-sex marriage, so I believe it is an accurate reflection of reality), what accounts for this discrepancy between support for same-sex marriage in the pews and the perception that the Catholic church is uniquely hostile to LGBT people?

I think the difference between the Catholic church and other equally homophobic evangelical groups is that the former is highly centralized, not just in terms of teaching content and governance, but in determining what message is send out. Because evangelical churches tend to be more decentralized, they can always claim that the more extreme homophobic messages are just the rantings and ravings of “some guy” and not representative of the denomination as a whole, whereas the Vatican takes great pains to ensure that all of its priests and bishops are “on message.” Despite the “People of God” rhetoric that came out as the result of Vatican II, the Catholic church is still largely seen as comprising the hierarchy with the laity just kind of “there.” Consequently, it makes no difference what the people in the pews think so long as the ordained class is more or less united in opposing LGBT rights.

The study also indicates that the Mormon church is perceived to be hostile to LGBT people, but not to the same extent as the Catholic church. I believe this stems from the fact that the Mormon church is relatively small vis a vis the Catholic church. While the Mormon church is quite powerful in a handful of western states — Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and parts of Arizona — outside of that area, Mormons are just seen as a bunch of weirdos and tend to keep a low profile. After the Prop 8 disaster in California, the Mormons aren’t likely to try and overplay their hand politically outside of their western strongholds. In comparison, there are Catholic churches almost everywhere in the US, and every region is a potential area of influence. Even if Catholics don’t vote as a bloc like they once did, it only takes a small percentage of Catholics to make a very big difference (just look at the anti-abortion movement for another example).

Lastly, the Catholic church’s opposition to birth control also makes them seem more homophobic than other groups. Condoms have been proven to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but the Catholic church is claiming that they don’t work and are immoral. This has devastating effects in poor country, where religious leaders in general have a great deal of input in public health matters and where HIV is the biggest problem. During the “plague years” of the 1980s, when HIV was always a death sentence, the Catholic church, like most conservative institutions had nothing to say about the disease, other that some members of the hierarchy who claimed that it was a punishment from God for the “homosexual lifestyle.” I know the hierarchy here in the US had blocked efforts to distribute condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS and it must be even worse in the developing world. While most new HIV/AIDS cases these days are spread through heterosexual intercourse, it still has the stigma of being a “gay disease,” which explains why the Vatican’s “no condoms even to prevent HIV/AIDS” is seen as an attack on the dignity of LGBT people in particular.

While the people of the Catholic church may not be more homophobic than the general population (at least in the US) and possibly even less so, their clerical class is probably one of the greatest sources of organized homophobia, not just in the US but in the world. The centralized nature of the Catholic church gives it a strength in the political arena that is unmatched by any other group, secular or religious (the only exception might be the House of Saud’s various Islamic front groups). Even if evangelicals are more homophobic on the grounds than Catholics, no evangelical leader has the political influence that a pope can wield, or a city-state to advocate for evangelical causes at the UN like Vatican City does. As long as the hierarchy believes that gay marriage is a social problem, the church will continue to be perceived as homophobic, no matter how progressive the laity might become.

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14 thoughts on “Why Is the Catholic Church Considered the Most Homophobic Religious Institution?

  1. It’s called sexual morality, not homophobia. It should extend to immoral heterosexual as well. Sex is supposed to serve a purpose, not just be a form of entertainment.

    And gay marriage is not equal to heterosexual marriage, because there’s no pregnancy.

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    1. There is no such thing as “natural law.” It’s simply Stoic pseudo – science that the church fathers picked up. Hence, there is no teleological end to sex or anything else for that matter. Given that the prostate is considered to be the male g-spot, one could easily conclude that god intended the anus to be used for sexual pleasure. If marriage is really supposed to be mainly about procreation, why allow infertile or elderly couples to get married? If procreation is the end all be all of marriage, we should dissolve all marriages once the wife hits menopause and force the husband to marry a younger woman so he can keep procreating (I guess all the post-menopausal women could live in neo-convents). There’s more to sexual ethics and marriage than procreation and making sure tab a goes into slot b.

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      1. Given your apparent atheism, why do you even bother wasting time writing, critique, scoffing, or debating? It’s a waste of time without any purpose. You admit it.

        You readily adopt condescending tones when lambasting dumb, conservotrads and their ignorant beliefs. This occurs while you spew forth your (baseless) position that there is no “natural law”, no objectivity, no truth. It’s the height of hypocrisy.

        Finally, your understanding that “procreation is the end all be all of marriage” only conveys your (willful?) ignorance of Catholic teaching on marriage. There are three benefits to marriage. The offspring hold the first place along with conjugal faith and indissolubility. The latter two benefits exist and are beneficial even if the primary end cannot be achieved on account of time or defect.

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      2. Catholic publishing houses regularly print books criticizing atheism and other societal and religious trends that they disapprove of. It’s called cultural criticism and it goes both ways. Given how much political power the Catholic Church wields, both in the US and abroad, it makes sense that people of various religious orientations and none at all would have something to criticize the church over in this regard, much like people criticize the Protestant religious right. If you get involved in politics, don’t be surprised when people disagree with you, sometimes quite vehemently.

        I’ve also never said there’s no objective morality, just that I don’t believe in natural law theory, which is pseudo – science. Most people, religious or not, dont believe in natural law and they don’t go around raping and pillaging. I’ve written some posts on this topic, so you can read those if you’re interested. You also might want to check your definition of hypocrisy , which means feigning what one is not or to believe what one does not (Merriam Webster). I’m not sure what you think I’m lying about in this regard.

        I’m quite aware of the three benefits of Catholic marriage, but that’s a relatively new opinion. If you go back to the days of the early church fathers, they’re quite insistent that sex was for procreation only. This was the official line for most, perhaps all of the age of Christendom. This is why most of the people caught up in anti-sodomy laws during the middle ages and the Renaissance were heterosexual couples caught engaging in “unnatural sex” and often paid for this offense with their lives. The current Catholic Church may have softened their line, and you can chalk that up to development of doctrine, but a change definitely occurred (if this interests you, I would suggest Peter Brown’s “The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity”).

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      3. I checked: the use of “hypocrisy” is appropriate. Merriam-webster.com comments that hypocrisy includes “behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” The definition is applicable here.

        Two striking examples illustrate the point. First, you engage in massive amounts of purposeful action (e.g., writing this blog) though you actually believe nothing possesses purpose. Hypocrisy. Your conclusory counter argument that commentary “goes both ways” lacks logic. People/institutions who DO believe their acts to be purposeful are, obviously, quite justified in commenting on social issues.

        Second, the (atheistic) arrogance exuded in many of your posts runs counter to your belief that there is no real truth or meaning. Why embrace such a condescending tone when you admittedly lack any objective ground upon which to stand? To do so renders the act hypocritical.

        Next, speaking of definitions, would you care to specify your definition of a) natural law and b) objective morality. You lack any post on this blog discussing objective morality as true, rational, or evident. Instead, you blog that morality is the purely subjective projection of human psychology which accounts for differences amongst religious conservotrads. Ahhhhh you must be alluding to your utterly barren statement that you “a firm believer in objective morality.” Do tell.

        Finally, again, your comments about Christian marriage are ignorant and contradictory. Earlier you referred to procreation being the “end all be all of MARRIAGE.” Now you intentionally equivocate and say that SEX has always been taught as to be used only for purposes of procreation. Marriage and sex are not the same thing. The benefits of MARRIAGE are threefold and have always been such. Pope Leo XIII, in Arcanum, refutes your claim that it is a “relatively new opinion” as he details the history and understanding of Christian marriage. Are you really trying to say that Church fathers (without any citation) are claiming that sex between a husband and wife cannot increase unity between the two? Unification and procreative purposes are not mutually exclusive which should quite obvious.
        It is also noteworthy that you improperly conflate comments of Church fathers with the “official line” of the Church. Please cite to the sources which say that sex is exclusively for procreation and cannot enhance other benefits of marriage.

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      4. First of all, I checked your IP address and I see that you commented last week as Vincent. If you’re going to comment here, choose one identity and stick with it; no one likes a sock puppet.

        That said, you still haven’t explained why it’s hypocritical for a non-Catholic to discuss Catholic issues. By that line of reasoning, only Hindus can discuss Hinduism, only Muslims can discuss Islam, and so forth. Even more absurd, that would mean that no one currently living can discuss ancient Greek religion, because no practioneers are alive to describe it too us (I don’t count Polytheist Reconstructionists who claim to be ). Indeed, some of the harshest criticisms I’ve seen of the Catholic church are from self-described traditionalists who think that the whole organization went off the rails after Pius XII. Are these traditionalists hypocritical for calling themselves Catholic and discussing Catholic issues when they think that the vernacular mass is an abomination and that the last five previous popes and the current one are heretics? Furthermore, Ignatius Press has printed many books criticizes the “New Atheism” and other cultural trends that they disapprove of. I could ask them why they’re so intent on complaining about the “New Atheism” when they’re obviously not atheists. Or is this more of the “error has no rights” thing?

        Most of the people who study religion academically aren’t particularly religious, but find the topic of religion as a human endeavor to be interesting and worth studying from a secular viewpoint. Whether you believe that the Catholic church’s claims about itself are true or not, it’s a fascinating institution. Seriously, the Cadaver Synod? That interesting stuff right there. The Catholic church may be a million things, but boring isn’t one of them.

        As I said last week, most people, religious or not, don’t believe in natural law, at least not as conceived by the Catholic church. There is a certain school within Sunni Islam that believes in a form of natural law, but it’s quite different from Catholic natural law. The traditional basis for Jewish ethics is divine command theory combined with extensive commentary on those commands by the rabbinic elite. Buddhism and Hinduism believe in a natural law called the Dharma, but once again, it doesn’t bear much resemblance to Catholic natural law. I suppose one could take the view that all of these different ethical systems are signs that a rudimentary morality is “inscribed upon men’s hearts,” but given how these various religions reach very different conclusions on many issues, one could ask why god wouldn’t simply stamp all these hearts with the same set of morality. If you want to know about the basis of secular morality systems, there are a number of authors that you can read including Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mills, Felix Adler, John Dewey, Paul Kurtz (obviously, these thinkers represent numerous intellectual traditions). Even Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics are basically secular. So it’s quite possible to have an ethical system that doesn’t reference natural law, but the onus is on you to become knowledgable about it.

        According to Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, “the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and bringing-up of offspring. The secondary purpose is mutual help and the morally regulated satisfaction of the sexual urge. (sent. Certa) Codex Iuris Canonica” I suppose one could infer that companionship is somewhere in this definition, but to me it seems that what this definition is saying is that the spouses use each other in a utilitarian fashion, whether to get legitimate offspring or as an outlet for their sexual drive. While companionship and affection may follow in this definition of marriage, it’s certainly not necessary from a sacramental perspective. Until recently, the idea that your spouse would be your best friend would have been risible; consider how much time Augustine of Hippo lavishes on his male friends in The Confessions, while his concubine/mother of his son doesn’t even get a name. This would also explain why Augustine says in Literal Interpretations of Genesis, “How much more agreeable after all, for conviviality and conversation would two male friends live together on equal terms than man and wife?” If you are interested in finding out what the church fathers, including Augustine, said about marriage, celibacy, and the family, I would suggest you read Peter Brown’s “The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity,” because I’m not going to reproduce his argument in a combox.

        I agree that marriage and sex are not the same thing, but as of late, religious conservatives are saying that procreation is the defining feature of “traditional marriage” contra same-sex marriage. From what I’ve seen, the entirety of the argument against gay marriage is that same-sex couples can’t have children so their relationships can’t be called marriages. Without bringing notions of god into the picture, defining marriage simply in terms of procreation does reduce the institution to sex in a way, especially if you also add in the idea that marriage is supposed to be a legitimate outlet for sexuality, as mentioned above.

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      5. First, I am not intentionally trying to switching identities whatsoever. I have been unable to post that response comment despite trying for a week to log in to Google+ via your comment box. (Maybe there is an issue with your site?). Thus, I created a wordpress account so I could continue the discussion. That’s why I use “I” and reference our discussion about dictionary terms.

        Second, you are missing the point regarding your hypocrisy, thus many of your points are irrelevant. Those other faith systems believe their actions contain meaning and purpose. You don’t (by virtue of your implied atheism–by the way, are you an atheist?). Consequently, given your admission that there is no meaning or purpose, it appears hypocritical for you to expend such vast amounts of effort and time (e.g. this blog) trying to “prove” some point (which is utterly meaningless anyways). it is also quite hypocritical (and ironic?) for you to assume a condescending tone in your article as though your view matters more than others. According to you/atheism, you and your views are less than a speck of dust existing for less than a blink of an eye.

        Third, you did not answer my questions. You failed to give any concrete example of what your “objective morality” actually is or the logical basis for such view. That would be helpful. Referencing a slew of philosophers, acknowledging they “represent numerous intellectual traditions”, and then remaining silent about your own view is confusing. I will ask once more: can you provide your definition of “natural law” and “objective morality”?

        Fourth, thanks for admitting that marriage and sex are not the same thing. That’s a good start. Also, I gave you authoritative references to Pius XI and Leo XIII regarding matrimony, it’s benefits, and understanding the purposes of the conjugal act. They clearly refute your false statement that procreation is the “end all be all of MARRIAGE.”

        It seems like you are conceding that point, but, once more, you try to equivocate and now talk about “friendship.” The conjugal act’s secondary purpose as stated by Pius XI is for “mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence.” The inclusion of “mutual love” destroys your ridiculous conclusion that sex is utilitarian under Catholicism.

        Finally, the gay marriage issue is really dumb in my view. At most, homosexuals should be able to have tax breaks, legal benefits, etc. as anyone else able to enter a civil union. Their insistence on calling it matrimony (or marriage) is ridiculous and nothing more than an attempt to force their views on others–not the other way around. “Matrimony” means office of motherhood. How do two gay men occupy the office of motherhood? It’s nothing more than changing definition of words for no good reason. Tell ya what, let’s start a campaign so we can be called Doctors. We both graduated undergrad, right? We deserve the title of Doctor for that work. Come’on, you with me? Obviously, it’s absurd and just undermines the definition we have ascribed to actual doctors.

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      6. Okay, now I’m beginning to think we’re getting somewhere. Personally, I’m not too fond of the term atheist, because I think it’s too limiting. Atheism is simply a philosophical position that states that one doesn’t believe in any gods. It doesn’t tell you what one actually believes. I think that the term “theist” is equally vacuous for the same reason.

        My own view on ethics and morality have been highly influenced by philosopher Paul Kurtz, who is regarded as the “father” of modern secular humanism. He in turn was highly influenced by John Dewey and the American Pragmatism school of thought. To sum up briefly, Kurtz thought that the goal of humanism was eupraxophy or “good conduct and wisdom in living.” Like Aristotle and many other Greco-Roman philosophers, Kurtz believed that humanism should lead to human flourishing and human excellence. Although Kurtz himself didn’t say this (I think), I believe that we can determine objectively whether certain acts lead to human flourishing. For example, while the Taliban in Afghanistan may say that keeping women condemned to the house and wearing burkas may make them more pleasing to Allah, doing so completely wastes the human potential of that country’s female population (if nothing else, not leaving the house will lead to rickets, which is also not conducive to human flourishing). While I don’t believe that there is an “ultimate end” to human existence, there are many individual goals that are important to the people who have them; I think that the striving of an elderly Kenyan woman to learn how to read is as admirable as a scientist looking for a cure for cancer, because the individuals in both cases are striving for personal excellence and bettering society. This is why I would say that slavery and racism are always wrong in all historical contexts, because they both exploit people and reduce the ability of the individual to flourish.

        While I don’t believe in natural law as defined by the Catholic church, I believe that human morality has evolved from similar traits found in non-human animals. Research into the emotional and social life of animals has yielded an enormous amount of information that suggests that notions of fairness and justice exist, not just among other primates such as chimpanzees and bonobos, but in ravens, wolves, elephants, pigs, cows, and other creatures (I would recommend “Wild Justice” by Marc Bekoff if you want to know more about this subject). From this, it’s not hard to see how the more complex forms of ethics and morality came into existence among humans.

        That attitudes on marriage changed substantially between Augustine and Leo XIII shouldn’t come as a surprise, since marriage is always evolving, even within a religious context. This is why gay marriage makes sense to most millenials, but not to their grandparents (at least not most of them), because the definition of marriage has evolved to embrace the idea of same-sex couples. Would Augustine understand this? Probably not, but then again, he would probably also find the state of marriage in Leo XIII’s day pretty strange too. The more I study marriage customs, the more obvious it becomes that they tend to be very much rooted in very specific cultural contexts. This is why I put “traditional marriage” in scare quotes, because simply reducing it to one man and one woman is very reductive.

        Anyway, as far as gay marriage goes, I don’t care how Catholics, Jews, or any other religious group choose to define marriage for those in their group. Most rabbis, even liberal Reform ones, won’t marry an inter-faith couple ; I even read of a case where a Reform rabbi wouldn’t marry an inter-faith lesbian couple, although he had married same-sex Jewish couples in the past. The issue is over civil marriage. Personally, I think that everyone, gay or straight, should get a civil union at city hall, and then perhaps have a religious wedding if that’s what they wish, as this would keep religion and marriage separate, but I don’t see that happening.

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      7. Maybe we are getting somewhere :)….maybe.

        We are now approaching the same page as you appear to have backed off your original claims that the Catholic Church believed children were the “end all be all” of marriage. It’s quite clear that is not true whatsoever. And you present no proof that the attitudes within the Catholic Church have “changed substantially” since St. Augustine. You just say it. It’s quite interesting the lengths that Pius XI quotes St. Augustine on the topic of marriage if the views between the two are so “substantially” different.

        Marriage between one man and one woman is “very reductive.” That made me laugh. I mean do you REALLY believe what you write? So, under your world view, people should be able to marry their animals. Couples should be able to marry each other. We wouldn’t want to be too reductive.

        The issue with gay “marriage” is the use of the word marriage/matrimony itself as I pointed out. Matrimony means office of “motherhood.” Two gay men cannot be mothers. The entire “gay marriage” movement is, ironically, nothing more than people attempting to impose their illogical views on others.

        So you will not state whether you are an atheist? It’s not a vacuous term. Your moral views are separate (though related) to whether you believe a higher power exists. Maybe you don’t want to admit this because it will end up showing the deep, deep inconsistency of your world view.

        Regarding your moral view, here we can begin to see the untenable farce secular humanism represents. “Human flourishing”? What does that even mean. You mix and match different “flourishing” as you see fit first discussing societal flourishing then concluding that the individual’s flourishing matters. So which is it? If both, then which is more important and how does one evaluate that.

        Indeed, under your “objective” moral world view, why is slavery really that wrong? Many, many cultures and individuals benefitted mightily from slave labor. Indeed, those people flourished. Egypt comes to mind.

        More fundamentally, you haven’t even come close to demonstrating how the secular humanism moral view is “objective.” Indeed, if anything, your reference to Wild Justice undermines the objectivity of your purported morality (it certainly does not undermine the one, true source of justice). Why should “human flourishing” be the determining factor rather than “lion flourishing” or any other organism?

        If you want to see Paul Kurtz and his “moral view” get destroyed, watch his debate with William Lane Craig.

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      8. I have said that I’m an atheist in terms of where I stand on the issue of god, but in terms of ethics and lifestance, I’m a secular humanist. Human flourishing can be objectively measured in terms of human development metrics. If we examine this, we see that the most secular societies are the happiest, most well-educated, healthiest, and safest, while those that are most religious tend to be at bottom of these measures. You can’t tell me that an illiterate Nigerian woman living under Boko Haram’s tyranny is better off than a secular Western woman studying in a university and following her dreams. What conservative religionists do in response is redefine well-being to place piety and a misplaced sense of moral self-righteousness above factors like health or education. Groups like the Taliban are probably the best example of this, as they seem to think that living like Muhammed did back in the seventh century trumps improving the material lives of the Afghani people, but you see it in the way that the Catholic church purposely tries to keep the areas under its control underdeveloped. This is why pope Gregory XVI banned gaslights and railroads in the Papal States, because he rightly feared that outside influences combined with an educated middle class would cause his subjects to rebel against his tyranny.

        William Lane Craig is a joke. I have no intention of bothering with anyone who is an apologist for genocide. I suppose in these types of debates everyone thinks that his or her side is the winner, but you’ll have to do better than Craig to change my mind. This is why I don’t believe religionists when they say they believe in “objective morality,” because more often than not, the only things that are always wrong in every instance are abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and pre-marital sex. Genocide, slavery, and racism are okay apparently, as long as your group isn’t the one being affected.

        I’m always baffled why religionists always assume that legalizing same-sex marriage is going to lead to bestiality. Have any of the countries that have legalized gay marriage shown the slightest inclination that they’re going to legal man-animal relations? Of course not. The problem is that conservative religionists believe that the only acceptable kind of sexuality is heterosexual marital sex, and everything else, from pre-marital sex between consenting adults to pedophilia to bestiality, without noting any differences between them. Progressive sexual ethics is based on consent and children and animals can’t consent by definition. Libby Anne explains this better than I do:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/08/a-tale-of-two-boxes-contrastin-sexual-ethics.html

        And despite constantly raises the specter of legalized polygamy, the only people who are interested in that are traditional Muslims and fundamentalist Mormons, both of whom are too unpopular for mainstream society to support their cause. But maybe if they claim their “religious liberty” is unduly burdened by government laws requiring them to only have one legal wife, maybe they can get the Catholic church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the other usual suspects to help out.

        When I said that marriage had changed from Augustine to Leo XIII, I didn’t mean that the church’s definition of marriage had changed, but the cultural context in which marriage took place. However, now that I think of it, the church’s definition of marriage has changed, since the ideal of the early church was that married couples live like “brother and sister” and cease sexual relations. This caused pagan Romans to look down upon Christians are being against the family, because the church was teaching that leaving a posterity was unimportant. It’s worth noting that the church didn’t define matrimony as a sacrament until the Middle Ages, because the hierarchy believed that it should be encouraging people to be celibates, not settling for the spiritual B-team of marriage.

        Anyway, I said that defining “traditional marriage” as simply a matter of one man and one woman ignores the role that culture plays in marriage. For example, in classical Athens, marriage involved a thirty year old man and a girl who would have been thirteen or fourteen. It was believed that girls had to be married off as soon as they hit puberty, lest they start experimenting sexually and thus have no value on the marriage market, as her virginity would be gone. While married, the girl/woman was expected to be completely faithful to her husband, but he was allowed to have sex with concubines, prostitutes, slaves, lower status males, etc. Meanwhile, in neighboring Sparta, women didn’t get married until the age of eighteen, which allowed them more time to mature, and consequently fewer Spartan women died in birth compared to their Athenian counterparts. Spartan men spent most of their time in the barracks with other men, and relatively little time with their wives and children. Hence, Spartan marriage and family life would not seem very much like what we know as “marriage” or “family” to our modern eyes, even though one man and one woman were involved, albeit in a tangential way. Somewhat later in the early Roman empire, the pater familias had absolute power over everyone in his family, which included the ability to rape or murder other members of the household with impunity. However, later in the Roman empire women were accorded more freedom, including the ability to divorce and to retain their own income. I don’t claim to know the marriage customs of 19th century Italians, but I think it’s safe to assume that they would have been quite different than those that Augustine of Hippo would have been familiar with in late antique Africa. When we talk about marriage, we can’t ignore the cultural context.

        Like it or not, the definition of marriage and matrimony has changed, and is always changing. Complaining that two men can’t get married because the term “matrimony” contains the word “mater” is like crying over spilled milk; the train has already left the station. Society is already changing its definition of civil marriage to include same-sex couples. There was much more opposition to inter-racial marriages when Loving v. Virginia was handed down than there is currently to same-sex marriage, and I would argue that for American society, redefining marriage to include mixed race marriage was far more radical than same-sex marriage. As I mentioned previously, if the Catholic church wants to restrict its definition of marriage to just one man and one woman, that’s completely within its rights, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on defining civil marriage, especially in a pluralistic society.

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      9. Our society allows criticism of religion on free speech grounds, but it’s hardly common, unless you make a point of only going on atheist blogs or restrict your reading the “The Humanist” and “Free Inquiry” magazines. Despite the constant wailings about the nones, the United States is still a Christian super-majority nation, with over 70 percent of the population identifying as a Christian of some kind. Religious institutions don’t have to pay taxes, and don’t have to disclose how their money is spent. There are about twenty religious channels that I know of, all of which are geared towards Christianity, although there is a local interfaith cable access channel that occasionally put on some non-Christian programming. The very reason why Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular seem “reasonable” to you is that you’ve been raised in a culture where Christianity is given a privileged voice, and other religions and worldviews are merely tolerated. Had you been born in Saudi Arabia, Wahabbi Islam would seem like the most reasonable religion, and Hinduism would seem reasonable had you been born in India. My own experiences were the inverse of yours, as I was raised secular, was Catholic for a while as an adult, and then de-converted back to my natal atheism. I think that what you want is to return back to the days of “banned in Boston,” where the Catholic hierarchy could set the standards for everyone in the US, and those days are gone.

        1. I believe what Paul Kurtz meant is that while the universe as a whole may be indifferent to humans, humans are important to other humans because they are of the same species and we have “fellow feeling” towards those of our own species. It’s similar to how members of a wolf pack matter to the members of the pack or how the members of an elephant pack matter to those elephants, even if these wolves and elephants don’t matter to humans, other species, or even other wolves and elephants in other groups. And really, I don’t see why anything more is needed. Life can have many “meanings” without having a single, grand narrative with cosmic importance. This argument seems ridiculous if you insist on having a supernatural worldview, where humanity’s real destiny is in heaven, but is perfectly logical if you have a naturalistic world view and believe that it’s more important to have a good life on earth and help others achieve the same rather than worry about what might come afterwards. Personally, the idea of heaven as traditionally understood – praising and worship god 24/7 – sounds dreadful to me, like a celestial version of North Korea. I think if the universe really cared about human beings then there wouldn’t be natural disasters that kill thousands of people in a few minutes or malevolent organisms like the smallpox virus or the guinea worm parasite, but that’s just me. Given that the vast majority of pregnancies end in miscarriages without the woman ever knowing that she was pregnant one could also ask why the universe didn’t design the female body in such a way to make it more hospitable to zygotes and embryos.

        2. You ask why genocide is wrong from an atheist perspective. First off, murder is wrong because it deprives someone of future experiences and pleasures, as well as any plans for the future that they may have had. Genocide is wrong because it takes the wrong committed by depriving someone of their future and magnifies it by a million or so. Since the point of genocide is the elimination of an entire group of people, simply because they are a member of that group, it is an example of arbitrary and unjustified killing. God might not care about ending the lives of the Canaanites for whatever reason, but the Canaanites certainly had an interest in continuing to live. What could be a more circular argument that stating that genocide is right because god commanded it and if god commanded it, then it must be right?

        I think that the reason why people like William Lane Craig can be so blasé about genocide has to do with the fact that such a thing hasn’t affected them personally, so they can afford to look at the issue from an intellectual standpoint. In my experience, white American Christians don’t want to look too hard at difficult historical issues, like the Holocaust or slavery, because doing so would call into question the entire narrative of “white innocence” that animates their existence. Post-war Jewish theological literature has been heavily focused on how to make sense of the Holocaust and black theology focuses heavily on what the experience of slavery/Jim Crow/institutionalized racism says about the supposed goodness of god. In comparison, white Christian theologians, whether Protestant or Catholic, barely touch on these issues, because I think if they did, it would shake them out of their complacency. White American Christianity tends to heavily promote the idea of American exceptionalism, the Protestant work ethic, and middle class thrift. It doesn’t dwell on the fact that many non-whites and non-Christians had to be sacrificed to get that vision, and their descendants are still paying the price for it, much less on the fact that Christianity was used to justify crimes against other groups of people deemed “other.” I could very well ask you what the Christian basis is for opposing genocide, given that the Bible explicitly approve of it in numerous passages, and the fact that Christian reasoning played a role in condoning many crimes against humanity, from the more than 2,000 years of vicious Christian anti-semitism to the use of “the sin of Ham” to justify slavery and segregation to the Catholic church in Rwanda’s role in the 1994 genocide. If some Hutu warlord claimed that god told him to kill all the Tutsis, by Craig’s reasoning, we should believe him and not bother with any sort of prosecution. That the passages in the Bible that condone genocide weren’t even considered controversial among Christians or Jews until the mid-20th century shows how religious dogma corrodes the moral compass.

        3. I think there’s more to the higher standards of living in secular Western nations than just having access to better technology. The Gulf States, for example, are awash in money and technology, but are still stagnant in term of human development and culture (see here from the dysfunction in Arab societies as a whole in terms of innovation http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/why-the-arabic-world-turned-away-from-science). Saudi Arabia and Qatar certainly have the money to improve their human capital, but they choose not to, because of their Wahabbi beliefs. While I think that colonialism play a large role in many of Africa’s problem, especially with the arbitrarily national borders, I also think that the extreme religiosity present on the continent doesn’t help. Belief in witchcraft is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, and thousands of people (mostly women and children) are killed, maimed, or exiled from their communities for being accused of practicing witchcraft. The Center for Inquiry is helping to combat witchcraft and superstition in Uganda and Nigeria, while the religionists just add to the problem by sending more unneeded missionaries. Mega-churches that preach the prosperity gospel are also very popular in sub-Saharan Africa, with preachers living so high on the hog that they make the likes of Creflo Dollar seem like paupers. If you’re a desperately poor person who doesn’t have enough money to send your children to school, but are eagerly tossing money at some huckster pastor so he can buy a new private jet, your priorities are misplaced, and that’s true regardless of your geographical location. Another key problem is the low status of women. It’s generally agreed that the best way to reduce poverty is to educate women and girls and empower them economically and socially. However, many cultures in the developing world refuse to do this, usually for religious reasons, and thus the poverty rates remains as they are. If women and girls are viewed as property (and disposable property at that), there’s no need to invest any energy in their health or education.

        The US is very technologically savvy and wealthy (at least on paper), but there are part of America, mostly in the South but also in isolated rural areas in the West, that are as bad as the developing world in terms of human development. Take Mississippi, for example. Consistently rated the most religious state in the union, Mississippi should theoretically be considered a culture of life, since there’s very little sex education, even of the abstinence only variety, contraception is difficult to obtain, and the state only has one abortion clinic that is under constant assault by protestors and politicians. The problem is that by all measures of human development and flourishing, Mississippi is a mess, regularly topping the lists for obesity, child poverty, diabetes rates, racism, and other undesirable superlatives. Mississippi does a particularly poor job of preventing teen pregnancy and the subsequent ills that result from it, as these statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services show:
        http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/states/ms.html
        The most telling statistics indicate that teenagers in Mississippi are not only having sex earlier, they’re having it more often, with more partners, and producing more babies when compared to American teenagers as a whole. Regardless of where one falls on the political or religious spectrum, I don’t see how one can look at this data and not feel like Mississippi has just failed, not just in preventing teen pregnancies, but in encouraging teenagers to wait to have sex and just helping them to make good choices, period. Just complaining about how pre-martial sex is bad or undesirable doesn’t actually do anything to reduce it. The US in general has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world, so the problem go beyond just Mississippi or even the South. If abstinence-only sex education actually worked, I would be the first one supporting it, but the statistics don’t bear it out.
        I’m a bit confused about how human development indices are arbitrary measures of wellbeing. Those things that cause psychological and physical harm are injurious to human flourishing, while those things that lead to physical and psychological health promote it. While this can be measured at a societal level, it has to take root at the individual level. Many practices that are justified on religious grounds impede flourishing, especially those pertaining to women. For example, many cultures believe that girls should get married in childhood so they don’t become promiscuous, just like the ancient Athenians did. However, early marriage is terrible for young girls, as it means the end of education (assuming they ever had any to begin with), the start of non-stop childbearing that their bodies are not equipped to deal with, and a life of increased poverty. Child brides are also at a greatest risk of suffering from domestic abuse and getting HIV/AIDS because of their powerlessness within the household. Yet the parents of these girls would justify their actions by saying that they are really looking out for their daughters’ best interests by helping her maintain her “purity” and ensuring that she gets a good slot in the afterlife for her virtue. This same rationale drives some cultures to engage in female genital mutilation. Basically, these girls are being told that they need to have a horrible life in to be considered virtuous, and their only hope is for a better afterlife, and I think that’s wrong.

        know you were probably being snarky about the speciesism comments, but I do think that non-human animals have interests that should be respected, which is why I’m vegan and opposed to factory farming, among other others. It’s not a topic I generally write about, however, because I don’t think I have much to add that hasn’t already been said by someone else who probably phrased it better.

        4. The problem with natural law arguments in general is that they’re kind of like watching clouds, where people tend to see what they want to see. You say that gay sex – really anal sex, if I’m not mistaken – is “unnatural” because the genitals were designed for procreative male-female sex. But given that the prostate gland is considered by many to be the male g-spot, one could interpret that to mean that the male anus was designed for sexual activity. You see, this line of thinking can go both ways (to be clear, I don’t think the anus was “designed” at all, because that would imply a designer). It may come as a surprise to you that the vast majority of people who are into anal sex are heterosexual and there are many gay men who don’t care for it. If anal sex is “unnatural,” I think more time needs to be devoted to telling straight couples to stop staining their marriage bed with “sodomy.” Similarly, I noticed in Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” that polygyny is considered permissible, if not ideal, according to natural law, while polyandry is condemned outright as “unnatural.” Yet no explanation was given as to why a woman having more than one husband is “unnatural” other than the claim that it impedes the primary purposes of marriage, which are the generation of offspring and the morally regulated satisfaction of the sexual urge. But I fail to see how a woman having several husbands would impede the process of having children, nor how such an arrangement is any more immoral than a man having numerous wives. The real answer to me is that the idea of a woman having more than one husband is offensive to patriarchal sensibilities, while the idea of a man having more than one wife seems normal, even if it’s not considered ideal. Indeed, this is why the Catholic church is Africa tends to be rather tolerant of polygamy (http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/09/11/surprise-one-of-the-churchs-family-issues-is-polygamy/).

        I still want to know where these people who are marching for the right to marry animals in real life (not kvetching on some message board in the darkest part of the Internet). I’m pretty sure if this was a bestiality rights march, that it would have made the news. Ditto on the pedophile rights march. NAMBLA was kicked out of the mainstream LGBT rights movement ages ago, and if they tried to march publicly, you can bet they’d be met with more protestors than participants. Once again, animals can’t consent to sex with people. While they may have interesting emotional and social lives, that doesn’t mean that they can consent to sex with a human, something that they would no doubt find frightening and painful.

        Going back to natural law itself, if it was really that compelling of a reason against same-sex marriage, the vote on same-sex marriage in traditionally Catholic Ireland wouldn’t have been as lop-sided as it was. To me, the Catholic church has never really tried to explain its position on sexual issues in a way that would convince the average lay person to voluntarily follow them. Rather, it’s relied on top-down pronouncements from the hierarchy and social pressure, neither of which work anymore, at least not on a large scale. If the sames-sex marriage issue is as dire as the hierarchy claims, it should be trying to educate Catholics on why the natural law position is the best, not just for same-sex marriage but contraception as well, but it hasn’t, for the most part, because once you start talking about “double effect” and the “teleology,” most people’s eyes glaze over.

        4. I live in this culture too, so I know about all the messages about sex. That doesn’t mean I buy into them either, whether the narrative put forth by the churches or the one put forth on cable. My main interest in sex is examining it from a sociological and public policy standpoint. As the example of Mississippi shows, you can preach about the evils of premarital sex all you want, but that doesn’t mean people are going to follow it. Do I think that teenagers are automatically going to have sex? No, but I think that if you want them to make good choices, you have to invest in them, and not just scare them with threats of hell. One way to help delay teenage sexual experimentation is to give them something useful to do, whether its having a part-time job or being involved in after school programs. Giving them medically accurate sex education is also helpful, because they will have a realistic view of what the risks are. Helping them to have plans for the future, like college, trade school, or apprenticeships is also helpful, because that way they won’t fall into the common trap of thinking that they need a baby to have a purpose in life, a viewpoint that is very common in high poverty areas. The church’s teachings don’t translate well into public policy plans that work.

        5. Gregory XVI’s comments about chemin d’enfer are well documented, so I don’t see how you can claim that I’m making it up, unless you just refuse to believe it simply because I said it. There was a consensus is 19th century Europe that the Papal States were the poorest, worst run country in Western Europe. In addition to not having railroads or gaslights, the Papal States also had the dubious distinction of having the last Jewish ghetto in Western Europe (for a book on the twilight of the Papal States, read “Prisoner of the Vatican” by David I. Kertzer). In a way, the Papal States were not unlike many modern Muslim countries who consider poverty and ignorance to be virtues. Simply put, Gregory was afraid of the development of a middle class that would challenge his rule, so he thought that keeping the Papal States economically backward would prevent that from happening. Furthermore, the observation that Catholic countries tend to be less developed and poorer than their Protestant counterparts has been noted ever since Max Weber wrote “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” and possibly even before that. Until recently, Catholic Europe – Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal – was behind Protestant Europe in all measures of human development. The same was true of Quebec until it had its “Quiet Revolution.” Parts of Latin America still have plantations, which are not exactly the signs of a modern economy. The only reason this must come as a shock to you is because you read magazines like “First Things” where they would have us believe that Thomas Aquinas was a libertarian, and that John Paul II was an invisible member of the Republican Party. For all of the moaning one sees among conservotrads about wanting a “Catholic culture,” I don’t think they really mean it, because they show a great deal of distain for “actually existing Catholicism” in places like Latin America. Like it or not, the Catholic church in America has been greatly influenced by Protestant notions about work, capitalism, and “liberty,” and shouldn’t be seen as normative of how the church in general has viewed these things.

        This segues nicely into your question about Thomas E. Woods. Not only have I read “How the Catholic church Built Western Civilization,” I also met him when he gave a talk on the book at St F (he attended at the same time as I did, but I have no idea if he still goes there or not). The book itself was okay in some aspects, but even back then I thought it was a bit of a stretch to say that the Catholic church build Western civilization all by itself. What we call Western civilization has many sources of inspiration from classical inheritance from Greece and Rome, Protestantism, and yes, the Enlightenment. Once the Americas enter the picture, Western civilization becomes influenced by non-European ethnic groups. I suspect if Thomas Woods had his druthers, Europe would have never experienced the Reformation or the Enlightenment, but much of his thought takes for granted that these events did happen, especially in his decidedly unCatholic enthusiasm for the free market. I also don’t think modern science and the scientific method could have arisen without the Enlightenment, because the nonsense about science being the handmaiden to theology had to be junked, and that could only happen with thinkers who weren’t afraid to walk on the heretical side. The principle thinkers of the Scientific Revolution didn’t come from the post-Tridentine Catholic cultures, unless you count the anticlerical French philosophes, who are technically grouped with the thinkers of the Enlightenment. Without the “breakthrough” that occurred with the Enlightenment, I think that Europe would have eventually hit a wall, like the Islamic world and imperial China did with regard to their study of science. While I do think that the medieval universities were important institutions that helped create an environment of independent scholarship, they were nothing like modern research universities. Medieval universities were inherently conservative institutions whose main purpose was to conserve the knowledge that was already available, not create new knowledge. It wasn’t until the Enlightenment that universities began to transition to the research university model, and these outlook was reflected in newer institutions like Humboldt University Berlin, not the older ones that dated from the medieval period, although these gradually became research universities over time.

        I’m not too fond of Woods because of his membership in the League of the South, his fixation on “Lost Cause Ideology,” and his dismissal of the Civil Rights Movement. When someone says that they think that South should have won the Civil War, I interpret that to mean that you think that slavery was a good idea or at least not that bad (a “peculiar institution” to use the parlance of the time), and in your ideal world, I would be your property and possibly your sex slave to boot. And given that he says in his “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” that the Fourteenth Amendment to be illegitimate, and bashes the abolitionist movement, I do think that he envisions a return to chattel slavery in his ideal world. So you must forgive me if I don’t look kindly on a man who wants to strip me of my civil and human rights.

        However, I think Woods’ attitudes on race are symptomatic of a larger problem, namely that for many conservotrads, black people are regarded as a social problem, rather than members of the moral community who deserve concern. They consider talking about racism to be a problem, rather than racism itself, presumably to preserve the illusion of “white innocence.” For example, I’ve heard complaints among conservotrads about why black Catholic parishes celebrate MLK Day masses and have pictures of him in the parish hall, rather than some Catholic equivalent. But there is no Catholic equivilent of MLK, and believe me, I tried to find one. I tried to like Martin de Porres, but after I read the story about him offering to sell himself into slavery so his convent could get out of debt, I could only regard his as an Uncle Tom in a Dominican habit. If the Catholic church had spent a fraction of the money it now spends fighting against abortion to fight against slavery or segregation, what a difference that would have made. But it didn’t, because white Catholics were already a marginalized group, and there was no need for the church to bother trying to help a minority group that was even more unpopular. I suppose you think this a shallow reason to leave a religious organization that you view as the “True Church,” but to me this is a case of noticing the silence of one’s “friends” in a time of need.

        6. Clement of Alexandria, the first Christian writer to write extensively on sexual ethics, believed that a celibate marriage was better than one that was sexually active and suggested that middle aged and older couples who were beyond the years of childbearing cease from sex altogether and live as brother and sister to focus on their spiritual lives. Clement also says that the point of marriage is procreation, but that the Christian really doesn’t need to have children because he or she has immortal life in heaven and doesn’t need to leave an earthly posterity. The practice was known among the Gnostics and criticized by the “orthodox” party, but it appears to have been done in “orthodox” Christian circles as well for at least four centuries. Some scholars like J. Hering and Max Thurian say that 1 Cor. 7:36-38 is referring to a celibate marriage, but like most Biblical passages, the context is vague and unclear. The ideal of the virginal marriage persisted into the medieval period, with thinkers such as Peter Lombard (Sentences) and Thomas Aquinas (Commentary on the Sentences) agreeing that a celibate marriage was better than a “carnal” one. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing Indeed, if the Holy Family is really the model for all subsequent families, it’s hard to see how one can argue against the notion that a celibate marriage would be any less than a regular sort. Luigi and Maria Beltrame are more modern examples of this, and I’ve heard that Jacques Maritain also had a “spiritual marriage.” While the teaching on celibate marriage was never dogmatically taught, it was clearly a reality that had more than its share of supporters. To get a clear view about how Catholicism or any other religion is actually lived, you have to get beyond mere dogma and examines other sources, like writings by priests and religious, papal bulls and encyclicals, prayer books and journals owned by the laity, and local myths and legends associated with certain shrines or churches. Saying that celibate marriage were never a thing because they were never dogmatically proclaimed as licit is like saying that the Catholic church was never involved in witchcraft trials because the need for witchcraft trials was never dogmatically proclaimed.

        7. I’m not sure how secular humanism is “mob morality,” since even I would admit that the number of self-proclaimed secular humanists is fairly small. Secular humanists certainly don’t believe in the noisy exercises of piety that characterize American religion, for example, even though the majority of Americans favor that, so I’m not sure where the “mob mentality” is coming from. I don’t have a problem with that, because there’s no shame in being a creative minority. I think that if being against gay marriage was still a majority opinion (and it still is in the South and other red regions), you’d be using that fact as a reason why it shouldn’t be legal. I think the real issue is you just don’t think that gay marriage is a topic that should even be up for debate, much less a vote.

        8. Neither China nor Russia have liberal democratic traditions, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that politics in general for both countries was/is so brutal. A quick survey of Chinese history shows has always been a top-down society that loves bureaucracy and is prone to violently squash dissent. Mao’s predecessor Chiang Kai-Shek was a Methodist, yet he wasn’t any less bloody than Mao, just more incompetent, both as a military leader and as a politician. China suffered through the world’s bloodiest civil war, the Taiping Rebellion in the 19th century, which killed between twenty million and fifty million people. The cause was an eclectic religious sect that preached an unusual combination of Chinese indigenous religion, Christianity, and anti-government nationalism, yet no one ever seems to mention that a religious war killed as many people as Mao. Mao’s political role model was the first Qin emperor, who famously buried alive thousands of dissenting scholars. China’s 3,000 year history of illiberalism and emperor worship and had much more of an effect on the Mao regime that his metaphysical ideas. These days religion is legal in China, including Christianity, as long as you don’t complain about the Chinese Communist Party and register your group with the government. The practice of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, the traditional Chinese religions, has always been managed by the state, so once again, it’s just more of the same.

        Similarly, Russia also has a very authoritarian history. Stalin idolized Ivan the Terrible, another pre-modern tyrant admired for his ability to unite a fractured country (the first Qin emperor turned some warring states into what we now know as China). However, it’s worth noting that the actual relationship of the USSR to religion is much more complicated than religionists are willing to admit. Once World War II started, Stalin realized that he could use the Russian Orthodox Church to help mobilize the population into a patriotic fervor. Consequently, he restored the Orthodox church and gave it some freedoms because it was useful for him, while banning other religious groups. The Orthodox church jumped at this chance to get back into the government’s good graces, and rejoiced at the crumbs Stalin threw their way. This is also why many religious nationalist Russians to this day really like Stalin, and think that criticism of him on human rights grounds is just Westerners trying to cast aspersions on Russia’s glorious past. Indeed, for many Russians, the only problem with the Soviet Union is that it isn’t around anymore, because they see that period as a time when Russia was a superpower, respected by the world. Russia post-Soviet history has been about as repressive as it was in previous times, whether in the Czarist or the Soviet period, which goes to show that the more things change the more things stay the same.

        But the “godless communist” analogy fails anyway, because I’m not promoting a Soviet communist perspective (these days, the only ones who do are fringe characters in groups like the Progressive Labor Party, who are essentially living on Pluto, much like those Catholic traditionalists who are dreaming of a Catholic monarchy in America). As I mentioned earlier, atheism is a philosophical perspective, and consequently, there are many different political ideologies and lifestances that fall under its umbrella. The secular humanist magazine “Free Inquiry” is non-partisan and you can see writers from a variety of viewpoints, though obviously all are atheists by default. Blaming a secular humanist for what happened during the Soviet era just because it happened to practice state atheism is like blaming Christians for the misdeeds committed by Muslims just because both are monotheists. If seventy plus years of Soviet communism is enough to discredit communism, 2,000 years of “actually existing Christianity” should provide more than enough evidence to discredit that.

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      10. Well, Leah, I enjoy this discussion. However, I am also conscious of the consistency principle which dictates that once people take public stances they are extremely unlikely to deviate. So my posts are mainly towards any else who may read this blog/exchange. Obviously, it’s my hope you consider the points I offer with sincerity. Personally, I was raised Catholic but got completely away from the Church and adopted a New Age-type philosophy. I often spoke against the Church and how the New Age, comparative mythology view point really made the most sense and was best. Live and let live. Let everyone form their own belief systems. See, this is how we achieve unity–a common ground. Eventually, I realized how wrong I really was both from an evidentiary standpoint, a logical standpoint, and a moral standpoint. There can be no unity in such fragmentation.

        I’m convinced that if you’re honest in your search for the truth you too will see the serious inconsistencies of the world view to which you currently adhere. You see, we have been indoctrinated in a world where religion is openly scoffed upon. I think the priest sex scandal opened the doors to such criticisms unlike ever before (though there is significant evidence that was the result of organized efforts by communists and freemasons to infiltrate the Church via the priesthood. See Bella Dodd for example).

        Most things are couched in terms of “see look what the Church doesn’t let you do….ohhh see how they control….see how perverted ” yada, yada. The thing most people don’t take the time to do is actually consider WHY. For example, why does the Church say sex should be exclusively within marriage? Or why is abortion ALWAYS wrong? Generally, it’s just angry finger-pointing by both sides: one says you will burn in hell, the other says you are trying to impose on a women’s rights.

        While I truly believe that a sober, deep discussion would, in fact, render most people against abortion (especially under the reasoning of Planned Parenthood v. Kasey), I won’t stray too far from the multitude of topics already on the table. My main point is that I understand that the search for truth is not easy. I accept I don’t know everything. And I am always willing to learn more. Hopefully people (including you) will humble yourself to that Socratic truth. However, I understand how bad experiences can veer people away from the Church–and I would surmise that your encounters with people within whatever Church you attended are the proximate reason for your departure. I’d like to know more about why that happened.

        Turning to your response:

        1. Your comments about William Lane Craig are extremely telling. You know quite well that Paul Kurtz got absolutely smashed. It was embarrassing. If he is the “god father” of secular humanism, then that speaks volumes. At bottom, Kurtz couldn’t even answer the simple question (which you also avoid) about WHY humans are special in some way. He engaged in one of the worst examples of circular reasoning I’ve ever heard: humans are special because humans recognize they are special.

        Conveniently, you attempt to take some sort of moral high ground by asserting you have “no intention of bothering with anyone (WLC) who is an apologist for genocide.” What a weak cop out. Sounds like you are gulping the Richard Dawkin’s koolaid by the glass. WHY is genocide wrong? Objectively. Humans are utterly insignificant under atheism. Human flourishing? Many groups have flourished by being able to wipe out other groups. One could even argue that abortion is a form of genocide even more repulsive than the rest as it snuffing out of human life in its most innocent and vulnerable state. So I guess people could be equally dismissive of your views.

        I mean do you really believe WLC is an apologist for genocide? That’s a gross misrepresentation and you know it. Even if that were true, it’d be quite easy to defeat him in a debate then. Yet, Dawkins embraces the same weak, weak excuse for his intentional dodging of William Lane Craig. In reality, he doesn’t want to get embarrassed like Kurtz did and left sounding like a bumbling old man. Too much money to be lost (gotta love that Selfish Gene).

        2. Human flourishing. Ok, so people are supposed to consult the human development metrics prior to making moral decisions? That seems practical. I still no idea how this “human flourishing” model works–you now seem to be suggesting it applies at the societal level. Thought it was the individual that mattered last time? And, again, WHY HUMAN FLOURISHING? Sounds very speciesist of you. Also you appear to commit the fallacy of thinking correlation equals causation. Do you have any proof that secular societies have better metrics BECAUSE of their moral view as opposed to say, superior technology?

        3. Don’t know why that is so “baffling” for you…it’s really not too far of a leap. Gay sex is not natural from my understanding of biology. Neither is sex with animals. Neither is sex with children. Yet people do have sex with animals. People do have sex with children. People engage in couple swamping. Pedophiles have been marching for their “rights” as well. There are lots of examples of people wanting to or trying to marry their pets. On what basis can secular humanism denounce forms of polygamy (multiple wives; multiple husbands; group marriages)? Don’t shift the issue to the absence of “interest” right now. What about marriage with animals? Who said anything about sex with animals—sounds like your interjecting your own assumptions about what marriage entails. People just may really love their animals.

        But, since you mention it, why not sex?

        Ohhh consent you say? Weren’t you just talking about how there is all this evidence of animals engaging in complex moral decision making? Wild Justice, right? But they can’t “consent” to having sex or being in love. Wait. I thought humans were just animals after all. Hmmmmmmmmm.

        4. Your comments about sex presume that the Catholic understanding of sex is just way too archaic. It’s not “new and shiny.” But I don’t think you stop to consider the wisdom of the Church’s teaching. I looked at your “Two Boxes” article. Yeah, it divides it pretty well. I grew up in a world where porn is rampant (look up the web traffic statistics if you want your mind blown) and pre-marital sex is encouraged as a badge of honor. I engaged in both with vigor. Guess what: it leaves you empty. It’s superficial. It’s a perversion of something much more sacred. That sacredness we know in our heart. Our society inundates us with pressures to have sex, think sex, talk sex, and measure ourselves by sex. The Church’s teaching is right: love is way more important than sex. Love comes first, then sex. If you truly love someone then you are willing to give your life for them (marriage), and within that framework sex assumes its rightful place. Maybe you can’t understand that given your claimed asexuality. But coming from a hetereosexual male, I know the sexual pressures placed on us, I know the hollowness of that path, and I know the fulfillment of the marital act within its proper place.

        5. The comments about Pope Gregory and the Church are again just so ridiculous they almost don’t warrant a response. “The Catholic church purposely tries to keep the areas under its control underdeveloped.” What atheist website do you get this trash from? Watch a youtube series called “The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization” by Thomas Woods and you will see how outlandish your comments truly are–the university system itself has its roots in Catholicism. And I would have thought you would have liked Pope Gregory given his denouncement of slavery. I guess only his “bad acts” matter.

        6. Show me any authoritative Catholic teaching, at any point in time, that says married couples are to be “brother and sister”

        7. “Complaining that two men can’t get married because the term “matrimony” contains the word “mater” is like crying over spilled milk; the train has already left the station.” That’s logical……not. Last time I checked, it’s still a pretty relevant, open issue. And also I’m not a fan of mob morality. Though, I can understand why you are–it’s the natural progression of secular humanism.

        Finally, it’s worth noting the fine moral examples atheistic societies have provided within the last hundred years. Stalinist Russia ruthlessly exterminated somewhere between 30-60 million. Maoist China 45-80 million. 100 years and a 100 million dead. Strong start by societies championing atheism. You see, under atheism, it becomes very, very easy to tweak those morals when it suits a particular motive. Very easy.

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  2. Re; ethics, it also occurs to me that since the first 2 commandments are challenging and mostly ignored, the rest of the commandments give one an opportunity to really sink your teeth into the moral questions of the day, know about all the jots and tittles, legislate, legislate, gossip and peek into private affairs looking for deviance. The initial notion that loving God and neighbor is the heart of moral admonishment often enough gets lost once one grasps the implications.

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    1. First I have to ask you how you’re defining the first two commandments, given how the ten commandments are numbered differently from denomination to denomination. Regardless, the problem with using the ten commandments as a moral guide is that most of them have to do with how one should relate to god. The very definition of sin from the Baltimore Catechism states that it is an offense to god, not that it does harm to a human being. I know it is often said that loving god should be the same as loving your neighbor, but I’ve seen too many instances, both in history and in real life, of people who profess to love god, but go out of they way to make the lives of their neighbors very difficult.

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