Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Anonymous


I decided to make my answer a full blog post for you, Anonymous. For everyone else, this is the continuation of a conversation that began on my Beowulf post. I encourage you to read those comments, so you can see from where we started. Basically, Anonymous made some charges which I am bound by my identity as a Roman Catholic to answer.

1) He disagrees with my opinions about pride, as expressed in my Beowulf post. “Pride is a sin, a very serious sin. Mainly related to Lucifer's hubris. Now this blog is encouraging pride toward service of god and showing that pride. Now pride is pride. It is still a sin. I wasn't saying that sinning is acceptable. Rather that this blog is encouraging a sin, and that is then acceptable within this context. That is where I find the contradiction.”

2) He disagrees with the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Confession. “The idea of forgiveness for sins is not a contradiction. I just find it to be a recruitment tool in which it detracts from any true morality. You say it's wrong, but if you do it and you're sorry it's okay… This then leads me to the assertion that it is a recruitment tool. The church teaches you that everyone sins, and sinning is wrong. If you sin you will burn in Hell for all eternity. Then they continue to say, but if you're really really sorry god will forgive you and you won't spend eternity in the fire pits of Hell.

The reason that it is such an abhorrent technique is that it is done to children. Confirmation is done at a young age, where the church manipulates the children to join so they won't spend eternity suffering.”

3) He disagrees with the Roman Catholic Sacrment of (I think) Confession and Confirmation, when administered to children. “The reason that it is such an abhorrent technique is that it is done to children. Confirmation is done at a young age, where the church manipulates the children to join so they won't spend eternity suffering.”

There are a couple of other points that we split on, but these are the prominent ones in his comments. Especially the first two. Therefore I will devote most of my answer to those first two.

1) I think I mentioned in one of my comments that I find a difference between excessive pride, and legitimate pride. Excessive pride I regard as glorifying yourself, and ignoring God in the process. Legitimate pride I call a sense of joy, triumph, and fulfillment over accomplishing something. This must include the understanding that it was God who gave you the strength to do what you did- and that it is God who smiles in your triumph. This also means that you must not speak of your triumphs excessively.

I admit I was too admiring of Beowulf's complete self-glorification. I still hold, however, that sharing legitimate pride, under my terms, is a healthy thing. Arrogant pride that mocks God is indeed “Lucifer’s hubris”, and the most terrible sin a human can commit, according to Fr. Francis Sheed. Pride that is satisfaction with a job well done is not.

2) Confession can indeed be a recruitment tool, if it seems attractive to a potential convert. You were correct that the Sacraments are not in their nature recruitment tools, and that is still not what they are. They do not detract from true morality, because they are still a path to true morality. Catholics believe that God showed us these rituals in order to come into contact with Him to receive special graces. These graces give us the strength and devotion to live a life in imitation of Jesus Christ. If we do this, we will come to Heaven.

Confession is not about escaping the horrible tortures of Hell. Confession is about keeping oneself pure in order to be able to live in Heaven. As you said, we clear the slate. And we know that it will not stay clear. You were too right when you said that we are “weak and flawed”. That’s why we can go to Confession more than once. It is a constant process of struggle. We fail, we go to Confession, and through our resolve and the graces won in Confession, we do better next time. Just as an obese man cannot run a marathon without lots of practice, we cannot live a life of grace without trying and failing several times.

You could come to grace without Confession. The obese man could drink no water while running his marathon. But just as the water would help him immensely, so Confession helps us so immensely that to refuse it is almost ludicrous.

That is the meaning behind it. We do not keep it propped up to scare people into Heaven. Any Catholic who tells you so is not reflecting what his Church actually says about it. And if any Catholic does that to children, I would not weep to see that Catholic excommunicated.  

(As a side-note, I do not know if there is even any fire or physical torture in Hell, but I am certain that if there is, it is not the thing to fear. The thing to fear is external separation from the God who gave you life and holds you in existence, He who alone satisfies the human heart.)

3) I may be wrong here, but it seems you don’t like the idea of children being taught Confession and Confirmation at an early age. It seems to me that you are opposed to religious indoctrination for children, but I overstep myself, and apologize if my guess is incorrect.

Children will inevitably be indoctrinated by something. I was taught Confession and Confirmation as a child. I was also taught that premarital sex isn’t so bad, by the way people talked about it in high school, and in PG-13 movies. So either way, exterior forces will help shape what someone believes. Catholicism is based in Love, a ruling principle that sounds distant from the “vicious cycle” you brought up.

If children who have grown up as Catholics decide they do not believe our creed, they are free to leave the Church. We would no longer have a Catholic Church if the Church was that intolerant. Free will is essential in our faith. Dangerous, often, but essential.

Is this a satisfactory answer?

22 comments:

  1. very well explained. i hope anonymous will be enlightened by this.

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  2. It sounds like anonymous made their argument without doing their research. This anonymous commenter doesn't have any criticisms, just questions. Number one, what is the theory behind confession? If God is all-knowing, and all powerful, why should I go tell a priest about my sins and recite special prayers, when confessing to God and asking his forgiveness directly works just as well? Number two, isn't it better to simply be humble in our accomplishments, recognizing that it is God working through us, and not us working for God? And last number 3, if small children do not have any say in the religion they are first indoctrinated into, is it really by free choice that they stay? Or is it simply that whatever religion they experienced through their parents is the one they know first and best, and aversion to change keeps them there? I was raised as a Lutheran, and until my senior year in High School, thats how I categorized myself. Now I consider myself something completely different, but only because I don't fear change, and I found another option that made more sense to me. Those weren't rhetorical questions, I would very much appreciate your take on the answers.

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  3. All I will add about the "little children" is what Jesus said: "Suffer (allow) the little children to come to me for such is the kingdom of Heaven." So I would say that teaching children the faith is a part of living the faith. Your point about how they will be indoctrinated by something is excellent.

    From my childhood catechism: "A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace." & while I would say that per se they are not recruitment tools, they are a huge part of what the faith has to offer & do attract people to the Church.

    Confession is about cleansing your soul. Part of that is to enable people to avoid Hell who are in mortal sin. But it is more about preparing for eternity in Heaven by giving you the grace needed to get there.

    Just read something by CS Lewis on pride that fits in with what you said. Unfortunately can't remember where it was from, but I think it was in Mere Christianity.

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  4. Well since there are two of us posting under anonymous now, I ask you call me Anon and the other Anonymous. That way we can keep it simple. Next Al essentially just covered what you wrote Sean so what I say for you goes for Al. Third Anonymous asks some very interesting questions all of which I would like to hear your responses too as well. And by the way I may not be a biblical scholar, but I am familiar with the subject in with I am discussing. Doesn't mean I'm perfect, 100% right or wrong; or that you are required to agree with me. Now let's let the fun begin shall we.

    Just to clarify my numbers will correspond to Sean's numbers of his points against me so it's kept consistent.

    1.) You continue your point on excessive and legitimate pride. You say that legitimate is recognizing and celebrating by knowing it was through god in which you did it. However, this still continues my point that pride is pride. What I mean here is that by using that line of logic, you can justify anything; for instance killing someone is wrong, but if I kill someone for or through god it's fine. So saying that it is acceptable for that reason, escapes any morality and hinders all progression of morality.

    2.) Throughout all of your argumentation you discuss the purpose of confession, and what it will do, not what it does. In fact you discuss more of what god intended it to do rather than what people have it do. Now I am not debating what it was intended to do. Now confession is done from an individual to a priest. If god forgives them or not doesn't matter, at least not in this discussion. The intention of their soul doesn't matter for the same reason. However, the church saying that through this process you can reach heaven, matters. The reason is because of the act itself and its promotion. To use your description "Confession is about keeping oneself pure in order to be able to live in Heaven. As you said, we clear the slate. And we know that it will not stay clear." So to live in Heaven you must do this process. That is a recruiting tool. Now the act itself as I've said is between an individual and a priest. Now the priest ultimately does not know if they are sincere (few exceptions aside), or if they truly intend to follow through. The individual who goes to confession believes that what they are doing will get them to Heaven, because why confess if you aren't trying to achieve that. Now what is between them and god is irrelevant. So it is used to make people believe that is how they get to Heaven, and that is a recruiting tool.

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  5. 3.) I very much despise the idea of children being taught the sacraments or any religion for that matter, but that isn't the issue. Just to address Al directly for one moment, brain washing children to the faith keeps the faith going. You say it isn't a recruiting tool, but it attracts people... it's the same thing. Now Sean your whole point here about children will inevitably be indoctrinated to something is flawed, even though I do appreciate the cynicism. Before I address the flaws, let me just assume for one very brief moment that, that is true then you believe that better they be indoctrinated to this, than that. Although you may believe Catholicism is correct that attitude is flawed. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Now back to why all children will be indoctrinated to something is ultimately wrong. First indoctrination is defined as: to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view. So you hearing about premarital sex from peers and movies is hardly that. Next children are shaped by their surroundings that is true. However most ideas come and go through time and age. Either due to fads, or maturity of the individual. However religion is not that simple. It isn't just something you hear about. It is something that is forced upon a child. Now granted children don't always know what's best for themselves, that doesn't allow for this kind of behavior. The child is sculpted to believe through parents and priests without much thought or even free will. So children are being indoctrinated and that is wrong. Your god gives you free will, but your church uses that to force it upon individuals whose belief system isn't fully developed.

    Oh, and Xian I wasn't.

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  6. What would you prefer instead of religious indoctrination, Anon? What other system of morality would you prefer to pass on to the next generation? Its easy to point out the flaws in one system (as i am doing with yours) but it is much more difficult to create something. Until there is an alternative, religion is the least of the evils out there to teach morality to the young.

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  7. Anon, you make it sound like attracting people is a bad thing. WHY????

    Are you saying that Jesus, who IS GOd, was wrong to want children brought to Him? That he was wrong to say that we must have the faith of little children? It sure sounds to me like you are saying Jesus condoned what you call indoctination.

    The Bible clearly states that we are to raise up children in the right path, what you would call indoctrination.

    It is clear to me that you aren't opposed to recruiting or indcotrination, just what the Catholic Church stands for. & you are hiding behind the claim of indoctrination to justify your attacks. Why don't you just come out & admit that?

    Answer me this, given what you say about indoctrination are you opposed to Planned parenthood's method of sex ed that indoctrinates kids from an early age that there is nothing immoral with premarital sex or any other sex act? or just against the Catholic moral view? I suspect, as I said, it is the latter. Because if you were opossed to indoctrination of children per se, you would be attacking that as well as the use of things like values clarification in school.

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  8. i can see that, based on your arguments but just a point...killing someone and killing in the name of God is both wrong, how can you be so proud if you do such a thing? killing someone in the name of God is putting God's name in vain.

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  9. Al... "you are hiding behind the claim of indoctrination to justify your attacks. Why don't you just come out and admit that?"

    Please take care how you communicate on this blog. I let people comment so they can debate, and I insist that they do so with respect.

    Anon, I have read your points, and they will have an answer.

    Anonymous, I have read your questions, and as soon as possible I will respond to them.

    Xian, thank you. I will be throwing in my own two cents on that "What if God is happy for you killing someone?" question when I answer Anon.

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  10. Since I’m waiting for Sean’s response I suppose I shall address everyone else.
    Bob, the only alternative needed and also the only one that I advocate is simply stopping any and all religious teachings to kids. You claim religion is the least of the evils we can teach to kids, yet religion is responsible for more deaths on this planet than anything else. It is the result of much persecution, and hinders humanity from progressing. Morality does not come from religion nor are religious entities truly moral. Organized religion clouds morality, yes it can be responsible for good things, but generally it clouds morality. Religious morality teaches right and wrong through a selfish matter. What I mean is that people do what is right to get to Heaven, not because it is the proper thing to do. Religion is not the source, cause, or enforcer of morality. That comes from people trying to work and function as a group or society. To benefit each other, not destroy each other. Religion offers only a very partial morality in which children should not be exposed to.
    Al it sounds that way because that’s precisely what I mean. Indoctrinating children to such a group is horrible. I’ve tried to avoid anything directly to Jesus or god just for the reason that I was debating with Sean a few particular things in one organization. However, it seems that I cannot avoid it in this situation. You believe Jesus is god that is perfectly fine. I do not; I believe he was merely a man, a very powerful one at that who had good intentions for people as a whole. Now I am not clear on his true intentions with children being taught the faith. What I do know is that how it is used now, is absolutely horrific. The indoctrination strips them from any choice or freewill. Raising children on the right path and forcing an ideology on them are two very different things. Now towards your question pertaining to the sex education of children, I would first like to say a few clarifying points. First sex education isn’t used, or at least shouldn’t be used, to teach kids one way or the other. The job is merely to provide the facts of what it is, and various topics along with it. That is not indoctrination. There is no bias; there is no ideology, just the facts. Second I would not claim premarital sex to be a moral issue. I would claim it a value issue. Same goes to the age of the child. Morally it holds no weight whatsoever, only a value. It is a choice. As such I would answer with I completely support a balanced sex education. Now I am not current on if there is one or not, but if there is I am for it. If there isn’t I am not. When it comes to the Catholic opinion I find that it is wrong to force such an opinion on a child especially with the fear of Hell looming over their shoulder.
    Xian, refer to my statement with Bob that religion is responsible for more deaths in this world than probably anything else combined.

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  11. Anon: You really think that religion has killed more people than any other ideology? In the 20th Century, atheistic Communist regimes murdered hundreds of millions. Plenty of wars throughout human history have killed people without any religious motivation. Besides, the death toll from religion is ultimately unimportant compared to the central question. Does God exist? If He does, than it is right to be religious despite the atrocities of others.

    The appropriate question about morality is not "is it selfish?" but "is it real?" If God does not exist than neither can any absolute external morality. The only way that morality can actually exist is if God does as well.

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  12. Patrick I absolutely do, and am pretty sure that, that is a correct assumption. Since religious groups have been formed people have been killing each other in the names of whatever god, gods, or otherwise. Sure there have been instances where conflicts aren't based on that, but it doesn't even compare. Marx believed religion to be the opiate of the masses. Yes Stalin killed people for their religious beliefs, which is an atrocity. Also recognize though that was not his soul reason, he was paranoid and killed millions of people based on economic status or if he thought they were going against him. Yet religious groups persecute people for the basis they disagree. The inquisition, the horrible mistreatment of native peoples all over the globe, the persecution of northern European populations, the witch hunts, the Crusades, and even the holocaust. Not to mention the multitude of religious conflicts that have been ongoing in the Middle East.

    If religious death toll is unimportant as you claim why bring up the Communist example. It obviously is important if you had to offer a counter. So what you're advocating is that if god exists, then no matter what the group does in the name of that god you should still be religious. That kind of attitude is why these atrocities against humanity are continually committed.

    Tell me why can morality only exist if god exists. I presume (sorry if I'm wrong) you are Catholic and as such speaking of the existence of that god. However morality has existed long before the concept of a Catholic god. Morality and religion are not linked. God and morality are not linked in the way you describe.

    As to the existence of god, I will say this: I have not been debating the existence of god thus far for this reason. There is no debate, there is no proof of the existence of god. The burden of proof is on you, and ultimately any debate about god's existence comes down to either we both admit that there is no absolute certainty, or that you must prove the existence. To quote Ricky Gervais, "I could tell you I've got superpowers, but you can't go up to people saying 'Prove I can't fly.' They'd go: 'What do you mean "Prove you can't fly"? Prove you can!'" So until you can I won't debate that, I will debate the institution of religion. I will debate what they have done, what they continue to do, and why that hinders humanity. In turn why morality cannot be achieved with it, because religion clouds morality.

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  13. Religious groups have killed people in the past. I do not dispute this. I cannot speak for all religious institutions. What I can say is that every Catholic that has killed or tortured, or committed similar atrocities in the name of Christ has betrayed the Catholic Church. Incidents like the Crusades are horrible acts that continue to shame us to this day. If every member of the Catholic Church adhered perfectly to the ideal of the Catholic Church, none of those things would ever have happened.

    And about the existence of God, does it not make sense that we cannot prove it? When you fully understand a concept, your understanding encompasses that concept, which is an abstract reality. If we fully understood God, our understanding would encompass God.

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  14. And by the way...

    1)It is not in God's nature to kill or commit any evil. If Satan had never rebelled against God, the very idea of such things would not exist. I could not take legitimate pride if I murdered someone. The idea that God can somehow condone such things is madness. Too many people in history, as you have pointed out, have made this mistake.

    2) When I described the purpose, I was speaking about what it does. If Confession did not do what I said it does, I would not call it the purpose. And to be clear, when I said that one could come to grace without Confession, I should have been more clear. You can get to Heaven without Confession, if you are not Catholic. If you are, then Confession is one of our beliefs. If you don't do it, then why bother being Catholic at all?

    I also said in my post that it was a recruiting tool. I do not dispute with you there. But in its primary function, it is not a recruiting tool.

    3) Why do you have such a problem with Catholic parents teaching their kids what they believe, if the kids do not have to stay in the Church when they grow of age? I said that in my post. If I wanted to force beliefs on children, I would not let them leave the faith when they grew older.

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  15. “Religion is responsible for more deaths on this planet than anything else.” I’d like to know your source/facts to support this claim. Over 200 million have been killed by atheistic communist regimes in the 20th/21st centuries alone. What qualifies killing in the name of religion? History has very few “religious wars” but many where political rulers have used religion to motivate people to serve their ambitions. Even the civil wars in various European countries after the Protestant reformation were never solely about religion. Even the modern Muslim suicide bomber – while motivated by a religious ideology – is often motivated by other factors as well.
    “It is the result of much persecution, and hinders humanity from progressing.” Except for the advances in science, medicine and technology that were developed or brought about by either clergy, religious or those whose education came from religious institutions. The first universities in Europe and the US were religious in nature.
    If you want to speak of “morality” define what you mean by that term. To claim that morality and religious are not the same thing is quite correct. To claim, as you do, that “Morality does not come from religion nor are religious entities truly moral.” Appears to be another unfounded assertion, but it depends on your definition. From the rest of your comments on morality and religion my guess is that your knowledge of the subject matter is quite limited. For instance, “people do what is right to get to Heaven, not because it is the proper thing to do” is largely false – there are surely some who think this way, but it not the norm.
    You use terms like “Indoctrination” and even “brainwashing” in a manner which suggests you understand neither term. Or you equate any formal and systematic instruction as “indoctrination”. If that is the case we have all been “indoctrinated” for most of our childhood by agents of the state (public school teachers).
    On Jesus: “ I believe he was merely a man, a very powerful one at that who had good intentions for people as a whole.” Logically, He either was who He claimed to be, was crazy or a liar.
    “The indoctrination strips them from any choice or freewill”. Wrong again, freewill is part of human nature and the numbers of people who embrace agnostic or atheistic teachings proves that freewill remains operative – just as do conversions to the faith. “Raising children on the right path and forcing an ideology on them are two very different things” – we agree, but since most of what you have written claims that any “right path” that includes religion is an evil. Let me ask what makes something either right or wrong? The distinction implies a standard. What standard? Chosen by whom? By what means and for whom is that standard determinative?

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  16. “Yet religious groups persecute people for the basis they disagree.” Assertion unsupported by evidence; unless you refer to “The inquisition”; but which one? Did you know that during the Spanish Inquisition, people petitioned to have their cases transferred from civil courts to ecclesial ones because they would be treated better? We have the records to document this. The “Black Legend” which surrounds the Spanish Inquisition is largely a lie used to attack Catholicism. Reputable historians no longer hold the “Hollywood” version of this period of history. You seem to be similarly misinformed about the nature and conduct of the Crusades. I’ll grant you “ the horrible mistreatment of native peoples” by the Spanish in the America’s, but it was ended in large part by Bartolomeo de las Casa and the Church. What I really wonder is how religion is to blame for the holocaust – the Nazi’s were militant atheists and hated Christianity. And let us do mention the multitude of religious conflicts that have been ongoing in the Middle East. There seems to be one religion – or rather a group with a minority view of their religion responsible for the killing. But then again Islam was founded in violence, was spread by the sword, and has maintained itself through autocratic rule ever since. Of course the majority of people they kill are fellow Muslims – even there, we have other factors in play.

    “ there is no proof of the existence of god”; what would qualify as proof for you?
    “I will debate the institution of religion. I will debate what they have done, what they continue to do, and why that hinders humanity.” OK, when you are ready to turn from undefined terms and unsupported assertions and broad generalities this debate may become interesting.

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  17. Sean: I'm afraid that you have been misinformed about the Crusades. They were just wars in which unjust acts were committed.

    Anon: I wrote a detailed reply but Blogger broke on me. I have to get back to work and will have to pick up this debate later. In the meantime, check out this post I wrote about Dawkin's arguments against the probability of God's existence:
    http://patrick-button.blogspot.com/2010/12/blogging-my-homework-dawkins-vs.html

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  18. Okay I'm going to break this up into two responses, Sean and Patrick then Monkmeg.

    Okay Sean, proving and understanding are two very different things. You can prove that something exists, yet you may not understand it.

    1.) God's death toll in the bible is higher then that of Satan. Often times very cruel. So don't try to tell me it isn't within the nature of god to not kill. My point with pride still stands, I was not saying taking pride in killing someone. I am saying that if you take pride and recognize that god allowed you to do it, and pride is a sin. Then that same logic then allows people to say I killed someone because of god, then it must be acceptable through your logic.

    2.) Fair enough with that point, I accept what you're getting across.

    3). I have a problem with it because the child has no say in the matter. They are sculpted through an incredibly biased entity. It doesn't make a difference if the leave when they get older, it is just wrong that children are indoctrinated in such a way.

    Patrick, it was well written that's for sure. Again though I dislike the idea of someone trying to disprove god. If anything the effort should be put into proving it. Plus even though I am a Dawkins fan I think he does get a lot of things wrong, or at least assumes too much.

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  19. Okay Monkmeg, here we go...

    The one thing I will say dealing with the commies is that they didn't kill over 200 million people in the name of atheism, yes there were some, but not all. However people have been killed in the name of many religions. What qualifies is any instance religion has been used to instigate, promote, or perpetrate violence. I disagree that there have been few religious wars. They may not be explicitly titled as such, but religion has been responsible for the causation of many wars. Radical Muslims may be motivated by other reasons, but killing the infidel in the name of Allah is pretty religiously motivated. Religion has been important in the field of education to a certain extent I will agree. Monks were responsible for keeping education alive in the Dark Ages. I would say that religion can hinder education in many instances in the modern world, but generally speaking I agree. I disagree greatly with your claim of scientific advances. There may be some, but religion has always hindered scientific progress be it Galileo, stem cells, or any number of instances.

    When it comes to morality I generally go by this, "a sense of behavioral conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong)." Misinformed about morality? Absolutely not. You say that the selfish aspect is not the norm, yet if it isn't why would there be religion in the first place. If people truly wanted to do good, and do the moral thing all the time there would have been no need for the creation of religious entities (I speak of Judeao-Christian sects) in the first place.

    I understand perfectly the terms in which I am using. They are indoctrinated into religious groups. As stated earlier indoctrinated is defined as: to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view. So merely being taught facts like 2+2=4 is not biased belief. It just is. Teaching children of religion is such a situation, which is horrific.

    About Jesus, all I will say is this I believe him a philosopher. Jesus in the bible is all written not from his accounts, but from others writing about him after the fact. So there is no reason why he is either a miracle worker or a loony. I just think him a powerful philosopher.

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  20. People can choose to not believe (like myself) so yes freewill is there, but religious entities strip that choice from children. That is what is wrong. Morality is based on right and wrong. Right and wrong is determinate on the action and the consequence. Moral standards are formed simply by the formation of societies. So true morality derives from one acting on those principles for the promotion of good, not because of fear of consequences or rewards, which is why religion clouds morality.
    I refer to the inquisition yes, and frankly it may not be as bad as it has been claimed. Yet it is still religious persecution, which proves my point. Even in Israel the Jews heavily persecute the Muslims. The Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland have persecuted each other since the two groups bordered each other. The Crusades were in the name of god for starters. Next it displaced the groups that were there and caused great persecution for the various sects. That is what I meant by the Crusades. With the Holocaust the government was not an atheist group. Hitler was a Protestant, granted he perverted many of the beliefs and used it to twist to his needs. He believed Jesus as an Aryan who fought against Judaism. He used those religious beliefs to complete his objectives. That is why the Holocaust is added among those instances. They did not hate Christianity, and they were certainly not militant atheists. With the Muslims they are killing each other based on religious principles.

    What would qualify as proof, would be well proof. Faith is why you can believe, yet there is no actual evidence. So since there isn’t, there is no proof.

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  21. Anon: I certainly grant you that Stalin and Mao did not kill people solely because of their atheism but for a myriad of reasons. However, religious people kill for reasons other than religion. They may use religion to justify some atrocities but that doesn't mean that religion caused them to murder people.

    Besides, religious violence is a lousy reason to reject religion. If the Catholic church is wrong about her doctrines, then she is wrong regardless of any violence she has inspired. If the Church is correct in her doctrines, however, it would be good to be a Catholic even if a bunch of Catholics were cutting off people's heads in the name of God.

    As for hindering science, you have been misinformed. Galileo was not persecuted because of his heliocentric beliefs, (Copernicus was never censored for his writings), but because he made fun of the pope in his book. The reaction of the Church was stupid but it was directed against Galileo, not science. The reason that the Church opposes embryonic stem cell research is that it requires the destruction of human beings. The Church is not a big fan of hydrogen bombs for the same reason. The Church is pro-human, not anti-science.

    You write,
    "Morality is based on right and wrong. Right and wrong is determinate on the action and the consequence. Moral standards are formed simply by the formation of societies."

    Ok. You believe that moral systems are based on right and wrong. Good so far. You say that something is right or wrong based on the action and the result. Also right. However, the question remains, who or what decides what actions and results are good or bad? Do you? Do I? If individuals are arbiters of good and evil than any debate about morality is useless because both parties are right. If cultures decide what is right and wrong then it is wrong to stone an adulteress in the UK but right to do so in Saudi Arabia. I'm sure that you reject that. You might say that actions that help the most people are good, but that means that any number of evil acts can be committed as long as they help the majority. Clearly, that cannot be true. Morality is not really morality is if is not absolute, and it cannot be absolute if it is decided by human beings. If right and wrong are real things, they must have been created by an absolute being, someone beyond space and time.

    You say that morality means acting on the principles of right and wrong for the promotion of good. I agree. What you describe is part of the Natural Law, written on the hearts of men by God, accessible to human reason and further defined by the Church. Good is good and evil evil because of this law, not because of heavenly rewards or hellish punishments. By trying to separate the natural law from its origin, you err.

    A normative value like "good" simply cannot exist in a materialist universe. There is no collection of matter or energy that make up goodness, justice, or evil. If those concepts are real than materialism is false. If materialism is false, it only makes sense that a non-material, absolute, being created these non-material things. That is not proof, but it is reasonable.

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  22. I like a lot of what you put down, Patrick. I myself am stepping out of this debate, and answering Anonymous, as I should have a long time ago.

    1)Humility is definitely #1. Satisfaction every once in a while is not something that I see as a problem. It is true, though, that if the big thing on your mind after an achievement is not the fact that God worked through you, that is wrong. As I've said, I went too far with my Beowulf post.

    2) Confessing to the priest forces you to be humble. In private prayer, you are still bound by your thoughts, which are still based in our common fallen nature. Basically, when you tell someone else, you know for sure you're being sincere. And God gave the priest authority to cleanse your sins. MUCH MORE on this at http://www.catholic.com/library/Forgiveness_of_Sins.asp

    3)People will feel a want to conform to whatever environment they grow up in. It's important, especially for religiously-minded parents, to start teaching their kids to think as soon as they're ready. That's about the best way to handle it. In the end, every person has to make the choice you did, Anonymous. It is the people who do so and don't blindly conform that are following the Truth. I wish more Catholics would be like that.

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