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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 7, 2007 10:07 AM. The previous post in this blog was What "sustainable" means. The next post in this blog is The real mystery. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

The people in the back, not the front

I haven't been to church in quite a while. I've been wondering whether being a Catholic is the right thing for me. Lately it's been kind of a downward spiral on that topic.

A good friend of mine who's still very much a part of the faithful provided a ray of hope yesterday. She wrote:

Who/what is the church? A human institution constructed 500+ years after the death of Jesus based on a patriarchal political model with a limited world view? Or the people who live the Gospel message out the best they can and gather to celebrate and remember the life and challenge of Jesus as we work in our own ways to make the world a better place?

Let the boys in Rome have their squabbles and disagreements about outdated language, stupid rules and how best to cover up scandals. They can't get between me and God. And luckily when there are places of sanity like St. Phil's, it's a bit easier to live the sacramental life that means so much to me without getting caught up in the silly antics of the men in funny hats.

Between that and running into another member of the parish the other evening -- a guy I don't want to lose touch with -- maybe somebody up there is talking to me.

Comments (16)

Sam Harris

Ode to Reason
Robert Hambourger’s unfavorable review of my book, The End of Faith ("Ode to Intolerance,” Winter 2006) alleges that I do not understand religion—at least as it is practiced by most people, most of the time. While he sought to illustrate this contention by stringing together many disconnected quotations from my book, he showed no sign of actually having understood my argument against religious faith. The fact that Mr. Hambourger has spent some of his considerable academic energies expounding upon “the reasonableness of belief in miracles” is quite telling…

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos
"One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is.”

An Atheist Manifesto
"Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle...The atheist, by merely being in touch with reality, appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.”

I have a real hard time grappling with the word as it comes from the Holy See. Mass, on the other hand, even when I disagree with the interpretation of the homily, is a very peaceful experience for me. I love the ritual, though it's hard to call it a ritual when it's as sporadic as it is with me.

Your friend's ray of hope is exactly that.

Google Sam Harris. get a bottle of Jack Daniels. and prepare yourself to come to your senses. Hallelujah! you found the truth!

Gary Wills' "Why I Am Catholic" and Andrew Greeley's "The Catholic Myth" (hard to find these days) will help you get your bearings and try to figure out where you might want to go.

Pretty much the only thing I ever liked about going to church was meeting good people. I suppose you can do that anywhere, but people seem to be at their best when they're at church...especially when they are relating to one another about things that have nothing to do with religion. The people I'm talking about aren't the ones running the place, although I have to admit I did meet some pretty cool priests and nuns when I was a practicing Catholic awhile back.

While I appreciate and agree with Sam Harris in questioning the belief in a supernatural being based on selective readings of ancient texts, I'm a bit put off by his approval of war and torture against those who believe in God.

Other than that, his books are a good read.

For a non-neocon take on atheism, you might check out Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.

"I'm a bit put off by his approval of war and torture against those who believe in God."
Where do you get this?
Dawkins is another fine read along with Chris Hitchens.

They can't get between me and God.

I thought we covered this once already.

From the grave,

In The End of Faith, Harris criticizes pacifists (Chomsky, Roy) and justifies bombing and torture. Yes, he spends more ink debunking the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion (and that may well be his central point), but he makes the unmistakable case that war and torture are morally just.

I was taken aback by the justification of collateral damage on the grounds that it isn't intentional. Not because I disagree with it politically, but because it was his only glaring logical fallacy.

In justifying bombing (and criticizing Chomsky), Harris writes:

"Nothing in Chomsky's account acknowledges the difference between intending to kill a child, because of the effect you hope to produce on its parents (we call this 'terrorism'), and inadvertently killing a child in an attempt to capture or kill an avowed child murderer (we call this 'collateral damage'). In both cases a child has died, and in both cases it is a tragedy. But the ethical status of the perpetrators, be they individuals or states, could hardly be more distinct."

So the ends justify the means, in Harris' world. The first fallacy, of course, is that in bombing Iraq and Afghanistan our goal was pursuing child killers. But this masks the greater logical fallacy: when you engage in a war-making, you really are intentionally killing children. There's no way to bomb a city without doing so. There is nothing "inadvertent" about it. If you decide to bomb, you decide to kill kids. Period. Justifying this is moral relativism, something he takes great pains to ascribe to his intellectual foes.

Harris is an acolyte of Alan Dershowitz. Unfortunately, Dershowitz's political influence seems to have overshaddowed Harris' otherwise well-reasoned tome.

Some people question how Catholics can hang on to their religion when wrongs have been found. I would say that many of us (and I am a practicing Catholic) would say that we know and believe in God and in what He said. We believe that the Church has a majority of it correct. We acknowledge that whenever man gets his hand involved in something that 9 times out of 10 he'll screw something up, but we believe that in the end God will make His Church right.

As with many Catholics I had my times where I broke away. In the end I found myself wanting more than what life offered (making atheism a non-option, plus it didn't make logical sense to me). I explored other religions and other Christian churches and always found them wanting. I've come to peace with God and with my Church. I AM A CATHOLIC and proud of it (although not always proud of my church).

I would go Catholic if the US church "schismed" away from Rome and the idiocy of the papacy.

Not to add to your confusion, but this week's Newsweek had an interesting article on Mother Theresa's letters...and her struggle with her faith and whether she believed there was a god. I doubt that her humanity will allow her saint status.

I am not Catholic and not the most moarl person either, but I think a lot of times the ideal gets mis-interpreted by those who bear the message.

I am sure when the noble ideals of government started in Greece and Aristotle began the university that both were organizations that treated people fairly. However, look at what has happened over time to both, yet we still strive for the ideal.

In addition, explaining the concept of faith to those who are not willing to accept concepts without proof, even if they are unprovable.

So, if anything, I understand your struggle to believe.

Disconnect, here. Totally. Where do these understandings or interpretations come from -- completely opposite my own -- in Sam Harris's words? Wacky Mommy quotes Harris; what's the link on those words? But even in the quote, "intending to kill ... inadvertently killing ... in both cases it is a tragedy," and such END is UNACCEPTABLE, CANNOT be TOLERATED, by ANY MEANS,' means so PLAINLY NOT the interpretation OFFERED as, "the ends justify the means, in Harris' world."

The Sam Harris link in my first comment, gets you to his recent articles collection. So we can all be on the same pages. In them, he states clearly that morality exists and he abides in it WITHOUT and APART FROM any reference to any God -- keep natural moral sensibility, intrinsic in the anatomy of the (normal) human brain, (ref: How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker); and lose the irrational superstition in any supernatural 'god' as the basis or 'giver' of morality; such idea requiring worship and devotion in an 'organized religion' is a mental prosthetic handicap, throw away those crutches, stand up and walk in the righteousness of sane moral human consciousness, in all people, in all cultures, in all the ages, born in humankind.

Harris also states that in children strongly indoctrinated to think in terms of 'supernatural order,' and 'God,' the resulting adult has great difficulty reading, and can hardly hear, to 'get' the veracity of atheism.

Forget 'God' and it changes nothing in your world, except an end to horrendous crimes and deaths dedicated to God's many namesakers.

I think David Reinhardt's article on Mother Theresa in today's paper is quite thought-provoking. And tensk, if you forget God and God is real and omniscient, and the source of moral sensibility, then that isn't wise. That men use God as an excuse to act like Jackas*es isn't God's fault. God gave them free will.

I accidentally posted my mini review of neocon torture-and-bombing-justifying atheist Sam Harris' book under my wife's moniker (Wacky Mommy). Not that she has any love for anybody who relies on Alan Dershowitz as much Harris, but she might not want the attention that comment may draw.

Sorry, hon.

To be clear, I have no quarrel with Harris' atheist argument. I am an atheist. I just want no truck with his neoconservative politics. (If you didn't catch that angle when you read "End of Faith", you weren't paying very close attention.)


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