It seemed these things were popping up in multiple discussions as people like @Suzanne chased me about, so rather than continue the multiple hijacks, maybe putting them here will be more entertaining for everybody.  All I ask is that people be kind, and perhaps answer questions in turn.  These questions come from http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/topics/mad-at-the-outcome-thought...

1. Why did you choose catholicism over all other religions?

Because it made the most sense to me on several levels.  I of course can't rule out cultural bias, since obviously I'm a westerner and Roman Christianity is culturally pervasive.  For me it was a conscious choice at some point, though I am not a convert.   Interestingly, if I were not Catholic I'd be more inclined to Judaism than the Protestant faiths.  Perhaps the shared intellectual depth of Judaism and Catholicism is a contributing factor.

2. Do you follow the decrees made by the Vatican?

The Vatican does not make "decrees".  The Holy See serves as the administrative center of the worldwide Catholic community, and we do have some administrative rules like any community (our technical term for these is "merely ecclesiastical laws").  For the rest, all we do is teach.

3. Do you agree or disagree with contraception being available to those who would choose to use contraception, if they had access?

I'm not sure why I should care.  Now sometimes when people say "being available" they mean that I should pay for it.  I think that's a different sort of question that belongs more in the realm of public policy.

4. How do you choose which parts of the bible to follow, and not follow.

We don't "follow" the Bible, we read it and refer to it, the way anyone does with a favorite book or reference text.  We try to "follow" God, perhaps, or the example of Jesus or other holy men or women, but not the Bible.  In teaching things or exploring religious ideas, we refer to a wide range of writings and experiences, including long oral tradition, writings of various scholars, journal articles, encyclicals, consensus documents, conciliar writings, etc., much like any intellectual community.

5. Is purgatory in or out, these days.

It's a theory that had moderate but not universal acceptance some centuries ago.  It's still referred to, but not anywhere near as widely as in its heyday.  So it never quite rose to the level of Newtonian Mechanics in physics in terms of acceptance as a theory, and it's perhaps fading faster, but like Newtonian Mechanics it's still referred to in some contexts. 

Tags: Bob, Catholic, Dr., Professor, Robert, Vatican, bible, purgatory, questions

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Dr Bob, I admire your boldness (and sense of humor) in posting this thread. I was a Christian for many years. I understand what you mean to a degree about "referring to" the Bible, and "following God"....my question to you is, that if a person is going to call themselves a Christian/Catholic they must obey "God" and they do so through the Bible's teaching," so isn't obeying the Bible's teaching necessary to follow God?

3. Do you agree or disagree with contraception being available to those who would choose to use contraception, if they had access?

I'm not sure why I should care.  


One thing that has absolutely astounded me is how many men in the atheist community do care about this, where as many men in the church do not really care one way or the other. There are many men on this forum who are actively involved in making sure women have access to health care to be able to have control over when and how they have children. Many atheists believe that the empowerment of women will produce a more sustainable earth and society for EVERYONE. When women are scolded for decisions that are to be made by them and them alone in regards to carrying a child, or preventing a child we see this as a direct attack against her humanity and a threat to her well-being which has a paramount effect on the rest of society. Many men care about this issue. Have I convinced you to a little more?

I'm not sure it's the empowerment of women, so much as the dis-empowerment of men. I personally believe that both a man and a woman are only half a species, specifically, men are one half, and women are the other. To elevate one over the other pointless and only leads to misery. I am pro women's rights to the extent that those rights are equal to everyone else's.

Interestingly enough, I also believe that the makeup that so many women wear is in effect the exact same thing as a burka is to the Muslims. We are taught that a woman isn't beautiful unless she covers her face in a mask of paint, and this teaching is reinforced when a woman removes her mask, and her face is pale, sunken, and featureless because it has been hidden too long from the sun and the rest of the world. We see the same thing in hermits who stay entrenched in their homes so long that they turn pale and the sun seems to hurt them.

I personally believe that both a man and a woman are only half a species, specifically, men are one half, and women are the other. To elevate one over the other pointless and only leads to misery.

I like that, H3xx, and would agree.

I'm not sure it's the empowerment of women, so much as the dis-empowerment of men.

That's a reasonable statement, assuming that men have always, and still are over-empowered. Religionists still revere scriptures that assign less-empowerment to women than men. Not to mention the laughs or blank stares you'll get if you ask one why they're so sure God is a "He".

I would think men should care about contraception if they care about abortion. It's a complex issue that I haven't totally worked through apart from my former Christian pro-life faith, but I know, I KNOW I've always been opposed to killing babies. If contraception is available, even easy to get, that should make it less likely for women to have an unwanted pregnancy. Instead of killing a little baby/clump of cells before it's big enough to be called a person, isn't it better to just keep the baby from forming in the first place?

Telling people not to have sex has never helped. Spreading misinformation also doesn't help, and from what I've read a lack of education on birth control is a huge cause for unwanted pregnancies in this country. I would think if anybody wants to cut back on abortions they should be handing out condoms and pills to anyone who will take them.

RE: "Telling people not to have sex has never helped." - absolutely, Physeter - telling any animal to go against its biological nature never works, but when you view sex as a "sin," prohibited by your "creator," even masturbation, then those urges, which are perfectly normal, have to go somewhere, and they all too often manifest themselves as aberrant behavior.

Earlier, Suzanne spoke of "women-hating men," and I think we'd have to look at the mothers of a lot of those men, for the source of that. And those mothers, of course, are again, the products of their own childhood, "and so" - as Vonnegut was fond of saying - "it goes" --

In Australia, where sitting under trees is a normal social habit for people, Free clinics have been hanging condoms on strings from the branches of the trees to allow amorous teens to be safe without the embarrassment of going to the store. They order condoms with specially made packages that have a loop on them, so none of this nonsense.

@Belle, the Bible is a compilation of stories from oral tradition, poems, histories, scrolls on philosophy or theology.   It's a book.  Teaching is done by people.

Professor Robert:

Teaching is done by people

Yes. But have you considered the content of what they teach and why? It all derives from the Bible. The additional texts that the Catholic faith ascribe to also follow the Biblical teaching do they not?

Perhaps it would be helpful to take a "real world" example for sample. What do the people teach in the Catholic tradition about keeping the sabbath holy? It's somewhat a rhetorical question. You and I both know. But the people teach what they reference from the Bible's teaching. It is not "Just a book." would you agree? If you honestly believe the Bible is just a book then do you not believe it is the living breathing "word" of the Lord?

Yes. But have you considered the content of what they teach and why? It all derives from the Bible.

That would be incorrect.  In a lot of ways, the books that we chose to include in the Bible were derived from the teaching, not vice-versa.  The practices and beliefs of the early Church predated the compilation of the bible by hundreds of years.   If you're Catholic, the Bible offers a touch-stone, a shared reference to that teaching, but it is not the teaching itself.

Many of our Protestant brethren during the Reformation rejected the teachings of Church as community when they left the community.  In their place they adopted various levels of sola scriptura - only the Bible.  From one thread of that tradition come our modern fundamentalist traditions in the U.S.  That has always been odd to us, particularly with respect to scientific issues like evolution.  After all, Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian friar.

So to take your real-world example of "keeping the sabbath holy", the Bible has a number of different things to say.  There is the Commandment in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there are tales of prophets and heroes upholding the Commandment and tales of others making exceptions to the Commandment in the subsequent books.  There is Jesus both saying that all of the law is valid, and then making the entirety of the Mosaic Law subservient to love of God and service to neighbor.  And there are commentaries in Acts and the various letters if I recall correctly.   How could one "follow" that?   It's not a set of directions, it's a discipline established to help humans, and a set of examples and commentaries and qualifications to that discipline, all embedded in stories from different time periods.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Sabbath is now on Sunday instead of Saturday, and yet here we Christians are observing it differently and on a different day.

Ok Professor Robert. I understand what you mean...I really do.

I would like to comment on this part of your eloquent response to my comment:

In a lot of ways, the books that we chose to include in the Bible were derived from the teaching, not vice-versa.

I am assuming that you are referring to the council of Nicea. It is from the toil of this gathering that we now have the Nicene Creed and much of the liturgical practices have subsequently followed.

I would like to draw a distinction however. Much of Jesus's teaching takes root in the Old Testament which was already part of the culture and tradition of his time. It's impossible to understand his teaching without understanding the Old Testament's references or the meaning gets distorted and sorely taken out of context. Do you think it's possible that the church as we know it today tends to throw the Old Testament to the side and refer to it when it's convenient and the teachings of the New Testament have subsequently taken precedent over the Old Testament in such a way that the modern teaching of any church, Catholic or Christian, has evolved to tell people what they want to hear to keep the pews filled? Some atheists have seen this first hand and has driven them out of the church because it becomes all about money and making a profit. The teaching has become secondary and keeping people in "programs" and "pot lucks" is now more important. Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think the church has evolved into a business? Would it be feasible to say that much of the teaching has been molded by its teachers to convey the outcome they want for their followers and allowing the Biblical text to confirm what they want and expect from them? How then do you, (or does anyone) find a real "Truth" in a teaching that conforms to a selfish end? Can it? Does it? Steer me down your thought process here. Let me know if I make sense to you and if not I will re-phrase. Thanks.

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